Honoring a Departed Friend

Planting a tree for Annabelle
By: Todd Martin

A sweet girl known for her tenderness toward animals and a desire to help anyone in need will be remembered through a living, growing memorial taking root at the front of her middle school.
Family and friends joined the parents of the late Annabelle Faye Bergman at Liberty Hill Middle School in Killeen Friday to dedicate a newly planted oak tree in her memory.
The 13-year-old passed away a year ago, on March 11, 2018 from complications related to Type 1 Diabetes.
About 50 students joined their friend’s mother, Wendy Bergman and stepfather Allen Carrick, along with grandmother Deb LaRue, great-grandmother Elvira Campeau and other relatives, including some who traveled from Michigan and Florida for the ceremony.
Teacher Rebecca Reynolds, Annabelle’s seventh-grade history teacher, remembered her student’s distinctive red hair, the way she cared about animals and a carefree attitude that seemed to draw others to her.
Her mother, Wendy Bergman, said her daughter was filled with compassion and was diligent to care for herself, giving herself insulin shots as early as 7 years of age.
Often not feeling well, the girl was strong, never wanting to miss out on life. Diabetes kept her immune system compromised, so dangers lurked everywhere for her, but she lived well in spite of it, family members said.
The Bergmans wanted to emphasize the importance of supporting diabetes research through the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
They wore green ribbons representing organ donation. Annabelle donated her heart, which went to a teenager and kidneys, which went to two men, saving three lives.
Speaking to the assembled group at the front of the school following dismissal, Principal Jorge Soldevila said the spot and variety of tree were purposeful.
The Shumard Oak, he said, will eventually produce vibrant red leaves, a memorial to Annabelle’s hair and her bright spirit. It was purposely planted at the front of the school, where it will one day provide shade for all who come.
The oak tree, Reynolds said, speaking to the group, is a symbol of strength representing the strength that Annabelle displayed daily. Its roots, she said, run deep, as the girl’s life brought beauty to others.
A year ago, Bergman said, she and her husband met with students to explain what happened to their friend and many of the students sent the family touching letters.
“The letters they sent us were amazing,” she said. “Some students who wrote me I didn’t even know. Annabelle inspired them to be better people. She had a staggering impact on the students here.”