Family and friends work to remember Leanna Myers with a proper headstone

Saturday, June 9, 2012 | 8:07 p.m. CDT; updated 8:35 p.m. CDT, Saturday, June 9, 2012
Family and friends gathered at Stephens Lake Park on Saturday to raise money to buy a headstone for Leanna Myers' grave. Myers was killed in 2000 when she was 17, leaving behind a 2-month-old daughter, Lea-johna.

COLUMBIA — It cost a dollar to jump in the inflatable castle. Fifty cents for a soda.

Ten dollars for a plate of green beans with ham, potato salad and a choice of barbecued brisket, chicken or pork.

The fundraiser on Saturday at the Stephens Lake Park Amphitheater was put together by the friends and family of Leanna Myers.

In 2000, Leanna, 17, was killed by her boyfriend during an argument, leaving behind their 2-month-old daughter.

Her loved ones hope to raise enough money to finally buy Leanna a proper headstone.

Leanna's grave is in Columbia Cemetery, marked with a 60- to 75-pound block of cream-colored stone cut by her uncle Jerry Myers, a bricklayer. The stone was never meant to be permanent.

Lawnmowers knock it around, Myers said. He stopped to visit once and found it on the other side of the lot.  

Leanna’s mother, Laura, works as a cook at The Terrace Retirement Community and couldn't afford a nice headstone, which can cost thousands.

Every year she gets the family together on the anniversaries of Leanna’s birth and death. 

“I would always cry and say I wanted her to have a headstone,” Laura Myers said.

Last year, her friend Milli Moses came up with the idea for a fundraiser.

The Terrace donated the food Saturday, and local businesses provided gift certificates for a raffle and discounts on supplies. Local band Chump Change also performed.  

“The community has been very, very generous,” Moses said.

Leanna’s daughter, Lea-Johna Sanders, is now 12. She floated around the party, chatting with her family and friends there. Other kids ran around the park, while the adults tried to find a spot of shade.

Many at the gathering wore white T-shirts stamped with a picture of Leanna smiling and holding baby Lea-Johna.

“She was always smiling,” said her younger brother, Justin Myers, 18.

He was 6 when she died, but he remembers how loving she was as a sister. He said Leanna always forgave friends who wronged her.

Her mother remembered a time when Leanna and a friend drove by a girl who bullied her. It was raining, and Leanna stopped to give the girl a ride.

Justin said it’s sad seeing the state of her gravesite now.

“She should be remembered way bigger than what it is now,” he said.

“It should be standing tall, so you know that’s her.”

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Gerald Shelnutt June 10, 2012 | 7:15 a.m.

You can also get a tombstone way below a thousand.

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