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Woman slain at welcome center honored

<p><strong>Sharren Richards’ memorial plaque was placed in the flower beds at the Arkansas Welcome Center off Interstate 40 in Van Buren on the one year anniversary of her death. Richards planted and maintained the beds and landscaping while working at the center.</strong></p>

Sharren Richards’ memorial plaque was placed in the flower beds at the Arkansas Welcome Center off Interstate 40 in Van Buren on the one year anniversary of her death. Richards planted and maintained the beds and landscaping while working at the center.

<p><strong>Sgt. Frank Petray, one of the Van Buren Police officers that responded May 1, 2012, to the shooting of Sharren Richards, shakes the hand of her father, Leonard Richards, after the memorial ceremony Wednesday.</strong></p>

Sgt. Frank Petray, one of the Van Buren Police officers that responded May 1, 2012, to the shooting of Sharren Richards, shakes the hand of her father, Leonard Richards, after the memorial ceremony Wednesday.

<p>photos by TANIAH TUDOR</p><p><strong>Bobby Burt, wearing a wolf t-shirt in honor of Sharren Richards, shows off one of her carved art pieces - a walking stick that depicts Native American images including wolves and a Cherokee woman in traditional garb. The stick was given to Burt by Richards as a Christmas gift, he said.</strong></p>

photos by TANIAH TUDOR

Bobby Burt, wearing a wolf t-shirt in honor of Sharren Richards, shows off one of her carved art pieces - a walking stick that depicts Native American images including wolves and a Cherokee woman in traditional garb. The stick was given to Burt by Richards as a Christmas gift, he said.

A memorial to honor the woman slain at the Arkansas Welcome Center in Van Buren was held on the one year anniversary of her death.

Family, friends, law enforcement officers and personnel from the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department gathered Wednesday at the Welcome Center off Interstate 40 to remember Sharren Sue Richards of Rudy, who was shot and killed last year while performing her duties.

Richards, also known by her Cherokee name of “Storm Wolf,” was 54 when she was found in the back of her work truck shot to death just after 6 a.m. May 1, 2012.

A memorial plaque honoring Richards was placed April 27 in the flower beds that Richards herself built, planted and maintained while employed as a rest stop attendant at the center.

“It’s real appropriate that they’re putting the plaque in the flower bed because that was her baby,” said Barbara Wilson, the manager at the Welcome Center at the time of Richards’ death.

Richards’ niece, Paula Beard, worked with AHTD to organize the memorial and have the plaque placed at the center.

“I just wanted Sharren to have the honor and respect she needed,” Paula said.

Paula’s husband, Danny Beard, made the plaque in memory of Richards, Paula said.

Danny, a pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Summers, spoke during the memorial service Wednesday, along with Joe Shipman, District 4 engineer with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department and Richards’ 98-year-old father, Leonard.

“She went to be with the Lord, and while we are heartbroken and saddened by her loss, we should remember who she was and what she lived for,” Danny said.

Richards was an animal lover, unpublished author and an artist. She hand-carved more than 400 canes, each one with depictions of nature and telling its own story, that can be found in gift shops across the nation.

Richards’ family and friends were thankful for the chance to honor her, they said.

“She deserved it,” Leonard said.

Patricia Hajek-McClure, 58, of Mulberry is accused of killing Richards. Hajek-McClure was charged May 9, 2012, with first-degree murder in Crawford County Circuit Court. A mental evaluation was ordered, but the trial date has not yet been set.

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