Rising amid the circus of eateries and nightclubs that populate the northeast quadrant of Montrose Boulevard and Westheimer Road is a new memorial that honors victims of violence in the gay community. Called the Montrose Remembrance Garden, the site at the corner of California and Grant streets is the work of the Montrose Counseling Center, nightlife magnate Charles Armstrong and the Aaron Scheerhoorn Foundation for Change.
The garden will officially open with a dedication ceremony on Thursday.
The story behind the garden's founding may be traced 20 years to the violent July 4, 1991 murder of Paul Broussard, a gay Houstonian, at the nearby corner of Montrose and West Drew. The tragedy sparked a vigil that drew thousands of participants and served as a catalyst for the Montrose Counseling Center to develop its Anti-Violence Program, which includes counseling and advocacy to anyone who is a victim of bias/hate crimes, violence, sexual assault or same-sex domestic violence.
"This garden is about recognizing our community and how fragile each one of us is," says Sally Huffer of Montrose Counseling Center.
"This garden is about recognizing our community and how fragile each one of us is," says Sally Huffer of the Montrose Counseling Center. "When one person disappears, it leaves a void."
The memory of Broussard's death was reawakened on July 5 this year when the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles granted parole to John Buice, who along with nine others, was convicted of Broussard's murder. According to the Montrose Counseling Center, Buice was convicted for stabbing the victim, and had been the only member of the gang still imprisoned.
Adding to recent unease is the Dec. 10, 2010 murder of Aaron Scheerhoorn, who was brutally stabbed a few blocks from the site of Broussard's murder. Scheerhoorn's death has not been classified as a hate crime, and a suspect has been charged with the murder. A group of Scheerhoorn's friends organized the Aaron Scheerhoorn Foundation for Change as a support group with the aim of responding to the tragedy and the violence in the city.
"Once the foundation got going, we decided that we needed to change our energy and anger into something positive," says Alan Everett, a member of the Scheerhoorn Foundation who is now pioneering the Montrose Remembrance Garden. With Scheerhoorn's birthday looming, the team approached Charles Armstrong, who operates the nearby bars South Beach, JR's and Meteor.
Armstrong offered an otherwise jungle-like corner under his command for an environmentally conscious memorial. The plot is now home to a Texas lilac tree, which blooms with brilliant blue flowers, surrounded by landscaping and irrigation selected by designer Glenwood Weber.
A dedication for the Montrose Remembrance Garden, featuring speeches by local leaders and friends and family of Broussard and Scheerhoorn, will be held on Thursday (July 28) from 8 to 9:30 p.m.