The mother of slain teen Ashlee Hyatt will again be able to put flowers on a memorial bench that bears her daughter’s name.
After taking several runs at the issue, the majority of Peachland councillors voted Tuesday to allow Charrie Fichter to keep placing tributes on the Beach Avenue bench, as she’s done for the better part of six years.
“I’m very happy that I don’t have to fight to keep the flowers on Ashlee’s bench anymore,” Fichter said, the morning after the vote.
“I can go back to do what I was doing for Ashlee and not feel like a criminal when I do it.”
Peachland council’s issue with flowers on memorial benches started eight months ago. A town staffer had them removed and Fichter didn’t know why. She’d been affixing them to the bench for years and they’d gone untouched. With a little digging she learned she’d been contravening a bylaw against the placement of flowers.
Fichter then tried to come up with a solution that she thought would work for all — sconces that could be attached to the benches for those who wanted flowers. That effort was rejected, so council then just looked at whether they could simply allow her to keep the tributes.
The issue was brought to council three times. On two occasions those who attended the meeting voted to remove the flowers and the third, and most recent vote, they gave Fichter a pass.
Fichter admits that town politicians seemed to spend a lot of time on what felt like a very personal issue, but she never wanted to let it go.
“It’s just my thing with Ashlee,” she said. “I put flowers on there for her. It feels like I’m taking care of her, making her feel beautiful.”
Fichter chooses silk flowers and attempts to reflect how she’s feeling at the time, or thinks about what Ashlee would like.
“I will look at them and know they belong on her bench,” she said. “It gets me through the day when I’m at home and I know her bench has flowers. It’s a peaceful place in the town she was murdered. It’s important to me.”
Ashlee was 16 years old June 2, 2010, when she was killed at a Peachland house party. This September she would have turned 23.
Years have passed but Fichter, like the parents of any murdered child, will never forget what she and her family has lost.
It’s a loss she’s been feeling more acutely in recent months with the bench becoming an issue.
“It brought back a lot of the pain,” she said. “Ashlee can’t fight for herself. At her trial I had to fight to be her voice, and this felt like that again.”
Moving forward, Fichter is working on seeing things more positively again, and that means new flowers for Ashlee.
“There are purple and white ones there now, but we’ll do something special for Christmas,” she said.
She also wants people who are grieving to know about a Facebook group she started called You Are Not Alone.
“People grieve in many different ways,” she said. “It’s a place where we can talk.”