From the time she was a baby, Samantha Reynolds was her mom’s “Scooby Doo.”
“Scooby’s my favorite cartoon character,” Tracy Reynolds said, “and Sam was my favorite girl.”
That’s why the Great Dane’s image is engraved on a bench erected in Sam’s memory at Great Northern Mall, one of the teen’s favorite hangouts. The black granite bench was dedicated in honor of the girl, who was killed by an alleged drunk driver in South Carolina in April, on Friday July 11.
“Sam was a huge fan of Great Northern Mall,” Tracy Reynolds said. “She spent practically every weekend here. This kind of keeps her here. It’s a way she can stay forever.”
Representatives of Great Northern said they were happy to house the memorial, which is in the food court near the Time Out arcade and was donated by Charbel Monuments and Memorials in Liverpool.
“Sam was here all the time, and this is a great way to keep her spirit alive,” said Jim Mackey, senior property manager for Macerich Companies, which operates the mall.
Sandy Graham, marketing manager for the mall, agreed.
“I hope this will be a reminder to people who she was,” Graham said. “I hope they see it and remember the good things about her, remember her life, not what happened to her.”
Members of Sam’s family were overcome with emotion at the gesture and the ceremony the mall held to dedicate the bench.
“I’m floored,” Tracy Reynolds said. “I’m absolutely amazed. People have given us so much support I’m just so grateful to them.”
Sam’s stepmother, Brenda Reynolds, echoed Tracy’s sentiments.
“I just want to give everybody a hug,” said Brenda, who was injured in the crash that killed Sam and who faces several more surgeries on her legs. “I want to make sure the community knows how much we appreciate everything they’ve done for us. We just can’t thank them enough.”
Sam’s father, William Reynolds, said he thought his daughter would feel the same way.
“She’s be overwhelmed, as we all are,” he said. “But she’d have some smart remark about it. Typical Sam.”
Tracy Reynolds said she hoped the bench would serve as a gathering place for Sam’s friends.
“I hope this will help them,” she said. “I still talk to a lot of them all the time. That’s made it easier for me. I hope they can come here and remember Sam.”
Tracy Reynolds also hoped the memorial would help her to deal with her little girl’s death.
“I suffer every day,” she said. “They say it gets easier, but sometimes I think it gets harder. I hope things like this will make it better.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.