The entire Old Rochester Regional community was there lining the road that February day when USMC PFC Becket Kiernan travelled one last time by the school on his way to his final resting place at the Bourne National Cemetery. The young Marine, just weeks after completing basic training, died tragically on February 5, 2018, after succumbing to necrotizing fasciitis while temporarily stationed in California.
A community mourned for a young man from Rochester they knew first simply as Becket Kiernan, an ORR graduate of the class of 2017.
Now months later, dozens who gathered at a stairway in the history wing at ORR on September 18 did so to remember the kindhearted, likeable young man as one of Becket’s close friends, Amber Jones, unveiled the grand mural she had spent months painting in honor of Becket.
Jones, who graduated this past June, was granted permission and given the support of the school administration to create the mural dedicated in Becket’s memory.
Jones said it took her a while to design the mural because nothing seemed good enough to represent the wonderful person that Becket was.
“I didn’t feel like anything was really worthy for him to be remembered,” said Jones. In time she pieced together a concept for the mural, encompassing various symbols that meant something to her and something that Becket would be proud of.
Within the 5 by 9-foot mural, one can see the front of an old brick building that resembles an Irish pub – Flanders Field, the sign reads, and an Irish flag hangs above the doorway.
“Becket always wanted to see Ireland,” said Jones. “He was very proud that he was Irish. One of his bucket list things was to go to Ireland.”
The name of the establishment is a reference to the 1915 John McCrae poem In Flanders Field, and McCrae’s poppies referenced in the poem cascade down from a window box above the doorway in Jones’ painting. Along the stone walkway below is a quote of something Becket once said, advice to his fellow graduates he gave in an article Jones wrote for the school:
“Do something that, when you look back on life, you will feel fulfilled. Don’t chase money, do something that makes you happy, and don’t stop working until you get there.”
“That was what I wanted him to be remembered for,” Jones said. “Becket never said much, but when he spoke, it was always something kind or thoughtful.”
Jones said she wished none of them had to be present on that staircase that day, and that she never had to paint Becket a mural in his memory. But this mural and the message of wisdom that he left with the world will serve as a reminder to those who pass by it, not just of the love and friendship many had for Becket, but also of the essence of who he was and what he stood for.
“I don’t want people to walk by it and feel sad and think that the mural just represents someone who died,” said Jones. “He was so, so happy, and that’s what I want him to be remembered by.”
Becket’s mother Linda Kiernan and sister Mallory Kiernan both attended the unveiling, with Mrs. Kiernan helping Jones to remove the curtain revealing the mural for the first time. Jones and Mrs. Kiernan embraced and stood together in front of the mural as she thanked Jones for the beautiful gift to Becket and to the school community.
“I’m very proud of it,” said Jones. “I know that Becket would be, too.”
By Jean Perry