VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — On Tuesday morning, the memory of Mary Louise Gayle took root once again in the Red Mill Farm neighborhood.
Gayle was one of 12 victims of the mass shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center in May 2019. Four others were seriously injured in that shooting.
Mary Louise Gayle’s sisters said she lived in the Red Mill Farm neighborhood of Virginia Beach since the early 1980s.
When her neighbors found out she had died, they worked with the family to get a dogwood tree planted in the community to honor her.
Sadly, it ended up dying earlier this year.
“To the neighborhood and her family, it was like she died all over again,” said resident JoAnn Baxter.
However, that didn’t stop residents from keeping the dream alive.
Baxter was one neighbor who spearheaded a similar effort.
They worked with the city to get another tree planted — this time one that would last.
With a toss of dirt and a prayer from Gayle’s longtime pastor, the tree was planted Tuesday.
“Like the wind that stirs its leaves breed forth upon us who mourn Mary’s loss bringing us consolation peace and faith,” said the Rev. Robert Cole.
The bright and strong maple tree brings back Gayle’s memory in full force.
“As the tree grows, it’s a reminder of how much love she grew in our hearts,” Baxter said.
Gayle’s sisters say this represents everything their angel sister loved.
“This is such an honor for her. When I even came down the road and saw the tree on the side before they planted it, just tore me up. So this is something that I can come by and remember her by. It just means a lot to us,” said one of Gayle’s sisters, Patricia Smith.
Residents say this is a place they drive in and out of all the time so they’ll see it a lot.