Anonymous cross-maker comes forward to replace stolen VB tragedy memorial

Virginia Beach Mass Shooting

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Kate and Jason Nixon lived in Pembroke Meadows. She was the Civic League president — an involved member of her community.

Then, on May 31, 2019, Kate was tragically killed by a coworker in Building 2 of the city Municipal Center, along with 11 others.

Shortly after her death, a memorial cross popped up at the entrance to Pembroke Meadows. It was done anonymously in honor of Kate and the others killed.

“We did not know where it came from.  It was out there in front of the entranceway,” Jason Nixon said.

No one knew who placed the cross, but it was a wonderful mystery enjoyed by a family who had lost so much.

“The girls and I liked it so much, we started putting flowers up. Neighbors in the community started putting flowers up. It has become a memorial for Kate in the neighborhood, and as you drive through the neighborhood you can see Kate’s presence … and the presence of the others,” Jason Nixon said.  

Then last Friday morning, someone stole the cross. It was simply gone, and it didn’t take long for Jason to realize that. He took to Facebook, and social media lit up. Then Jason got an unexpected call from a man who had a vested interest in that heavy aluminum memorial cross.

“He called me and said he was the one who actually made the [first] cross, and he wanted to replace it for me,” Jason Nixon recalled. 

So, on a dark and dreary day, there was a bright light out on Pembroke Boulevard. Ira Richels was on the scene with two new crosses he made.

“This one is for Mr. Nixon and his family, and this one is to replace the one that was stolen last week,” Ira Richels said, gesturing to the two crosses he carried. 

Walking across Pembroke Boulevard, Ira Richels carried the crosses to the memorial site. As he got across the road, he hugged Jason.

“Thanks so much for doing this.  I didn’t even know you guys did this,” Jason Nixon said.   

“I didn’t want anybody to know. I didn’t want any publicity. I did it for you, and Kate, and all the others,” Ira Richels responded. 

Ira Richels was accompanied by his wife, Ellen. Had the cross not been stolen, we wouldn’t know Ira, who grew up in Pembroke Meadows, was the person who originally planted the cross.

“I shop at this Food Lion, and I could’ve run into Kate a hundred different times, and never know it,” he said. 

It was Ellen Richels who saw Jason’s Facebook post and connected her husband and Jason.

“When I saw what happened … it hurt my heart. It really did. It hurt seeing how much it meant to them. I knew we had to get another one made,” Ellen Richels said.  

The windy, rainy day Tuesday seemed so much brighter when the Nixons and Richels gathered to re-plant a memorial cross and to remember 12 lives lost.

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