On Wednesday, June 5, 2019, Kelsie Lee Clarke ’11 stood among surviving family members who came to remember fallen loved ones at the dedication of the New Hampshire Memorial for Public Works Employees. As the artist who designed the memorial, Clarke experienced a range of emotions during the ceremony as she thought of her own family and friends in the sector: her now-retired father, her husband, Sam, and her dear friend, Ryan, whose name is among the 37 inscribed on the monument she conceptualized.
Being chosen as the memorial designer was an honor bestowed on Clarke by a committee established in 2009 to oversee the design, construction, and maintenance of a memorial for public works employees. After determining a site on the grounds of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation Building in Concord, the committee invited high school seniors and college students to submit designs for the memorial. Clarke, who was a Colby-Sawyer senior at the time, answered the call and was notified just before graduation that her design “captured the essence of what the Memorial Committee was looking for.”
“Having my design selected was an honor for two major reasons: First, my father was the New London Public Works Director and had worked in the field for over 38 years. I know firsthand the sacrifices that the men and women in the field make in order to be proficient and safe in their duties.” Clarke says. “Second, on December 1, 2005, my friend Ryan Haynes was struck and killed by a motorist while filling potholes for the New London Public Works Department. He was only 20 years old when he was taken away from his family and from us, his friends. His family didn’t want anyone to forget him — the memorial helps grant that wish.”
Clarke’s design features a walkway and reflection garden surrounded by four gray granite benches, representing the four seasons during which public works employees are called to service. Four black granite monuments are inscribed with the names of those who have fallen, and a black granite sign welcomes visitors. A line of 24 inverted shovels convey the hours of a day that an employee may be called to service.
Clarke says that Art in the Landscape/Landscape as Art with Professor Loretta Barnett played a vital role in the successful design. “While sketching my idea, I would recall Loretta’s lessons about using my senses to soak in the landscape — what does it smell like, what does it look like, what does it sound like, and what does it feel like?” Clarke says. “These lessons also helped me to consider how those answers connected with the memorial visitors and the workers who are represented.”
Clarke says her design was also inspired by the bond with her fallen friend. “I wish I didn’t have this personal connection to the memorial,” Clarke says. “However, I do know that because of Ryan’s passing I was able to design a memorial that was well received by the committee, and more importantly, by the families of those who are honored by it.”
What also makes the memorial special to Clarke is that it was built by volunteers and fully funded by monetary and in-kind donations. “After my dad retired in the summer of 2018, he broke ground on the memorial, working alongside countless volunteers from public works departments across the state who were all determined to make this spring’s dedication possible.”
Kelsie Lee Clarke ’11 is a graphic designer/marketing specialist for Coldwell Banker Lifestyles in New London, N.H. She lives on a small hobby farm in Wilmot, N.H. with her husband Sam, who is employed with the New London Public Works Department.
While at Colby-Sawyer, Clarke was involved with Student Government Association and the Graphic Design Student Alliance. At the 2010 Gladys Greenbaum Meyers ’39 Juried Student Art Show, her mixed media piece “Hoods and Woods” was awarded Best in Show and her watercolor “Flooded” was recognized with third place.