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A chance to honor Emily Eshenfelder ... and have fun, too

Creativity often begins in the abstract, which is why at first glance, this project involving the Emily Eshenfelder Foundation spawns quizzical looks.

But then, if you knew Emily and her sense of humor — like the American Express card, she never left home without it — you'd figure out a way to graduate from the abstract to the concrete.

Eshenfelder, a former field hockey player and 2006 graduate of Waterford High, died five years ago this year. Her loss was the loss of everyone else around here who enjoys free-spirited souls. In her memory, friends and family members involved in the foundation have issued a challenge to local high school seniors:

"Here is the chance to leave your mark during COVID 19," the challenge reads. "If you are a senior at Waterford, New London, East Lyme or St. Bernard and would like to pay it forward or create something for your class or school to remember you by, we want to help! Submit what your idea is about your class, school, or community. The winner will receive a budget of $2,000 (from the foundation) to complete the project. The idea must be ready to be independently implemented by the end of June. The winner we choose will win a scholarship (or cash prize) of $500."

Emily would love this. She'd probably opt for making a sculpture of a random high school senior in mid-sneeze or cough, honoring signs of the new abnormal. And that's kind of the idea: Create something that reflects a sign of the times that made the Class of 2020 unique — perhaps combined with memories of Emily, remembered as a bon vivant who loved Lady Gaga, playing field hockey, sunglasses, Converse, her food truck and her dog, Pancake.

"Her smile would shine through any mask," says her aunt, Sue Tierney, a former New London Board of Education member and the backbone of the family business: Capt. Scott's Lobster Dock, the iconic hideaway on Hamilton St., where lobster rolls, chowder bowls and waterside strolls define summers for so many of us.

It can be anything the creative mind evokes. The cleverer the better. It doesn't merely honor Emily's memory, but one of the great families among us.

The Eshenfelders are part of our scenery. It's hard not to know them. There is Scott, a well-known fisherman; Sue, who is of New London, for New London and by New London; Tom, an integral part of Capt. Scott's and one of the most entertaining people around; and the matriarch, Sharon, who owns her own Yankees bowling ball.

Tom commandeers an entire wall of the Birdseye during important horse racing days. Down come all the sports memorabilia and up go Eshenfelder's charts and graphics about all the races. He said once, "if I paid this much attention to math in school, I'd be working for NASA."

Emily's death was hard for everyone who knew her and the family. Which, around here, is pretty much everyone.

"Emily had friends at every school," Sue Tierney said. "We didn't want to call this a 'scholarship' because it's not just academic. It involves all the things kids are interested in. Things that affect them and the community. These are different times we live in. We thought people could get really creative."

Already, the Mystic Schooners, despite not playing this summer, have made a donation to the Emily Eshenfelder Foundation specific to this project. Can't think of a better way to honor a great family and a really good kid who left us too soon.

So let's go, people. Maybe there's room to create the ultimate Eshenfelder/COVID 19 monument: a masked lobster wearing sunglasses and Converses riding a race horse through the doors of a high school holding back a sneeze?

Just a thought.

Submit all ideas to captscotts@aol.com by May 23. Winners will be announced June 1.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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