Happy Thanksgiving! This is the first of what I hope will be a series of brief, occasional, portraits of some of the remarkable people I meet, folks who embody the presence and spirit of the Creator. Today, in honor of Thanksgiving, we introduce Wanda Robertson, and her mission to keep alive the memory and spirit of her son.
This morning we found our selves speaking with Wanda, who was managing the desk at our hotel. Wanda informed us she does not celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas. Instead, she takes full shifts at the hotel so other employees can have the day off. Her husband, Ron Alves, volunteers to take shifts at his workplace as well. Wanda spoke eloquently of her belief that Thanksgiving should be a time of gathering for all people, rather than a retail holiday during which people are forced to work, the antithesis of her Christian and family values.
We found ourselves wondering why Wanda eschews these major holidays. Not wanting to pry, we waited. When she was ready, she explained. Two years ago their son, Kristian Rose, a Senior in the Sports Management program at UMass Amherst, was killed by a drunk driver as he made his way home from an internship at the Massachusetts Bay State Games. Kris was an exceptional student, athlete, and person, much loved by family and community. His loss still echoes, even as he remains, for Wanda, a steady and immediate presence.
Wanda explained that the driver fled the scene of the accident, chased by witnesses. Although he was apprehended, he managed to use his wealth to evade prison for more than two years. She did not attend the trial, but did speak at the per-sentencing hearing, where she told the judge of her irreplaceable loss. The driver was subsequently given the maximum permissible sentence.
These days Wanda serves as Kris’s voice in the world, keeping his memory and spirit vibrant in family and community. She has established a Bay State Games scholarship in Kris’ name, and engages in other community based activities. When her good work is acknowledged, she quickly shifts the topic to the engagement and caring Kris brought to life.
We asked Wanda for permission to write about her, and she graciously granted it, then requested we point readers toward Kris. You can read more about Kris, his family, and some of those he touched, on his Facebook Page and on his Bay State Games scholarship page.
As we gather with family and friends it is good to remember that that our lives
are gifts from the Creator. We are grateful to Wanda for sharing with us, and reminding us that we may find purpose, community, and meaning in the face of unimaginable tragedy. Thank you, Wanda.