Point of View: Thanks to the Homer community for efforts to find and honor Duffy Murnane

In the two and a half years that Anesha “Duffy” Murnane was missing, community members near and far surrounded her family with love and support in so many ways — providing meals, participating in searches, vigils and memorial walks, sending cards, hosting flyers, banners, donation jars and community presentations, planting blue flowers, and wearing blue ribbons in her honor. Thank you all.

It is with my deepest respect and admiration that I want to acknowledge the strength of Sara and Ed Berg. Another family might have quietly and privately retreated into their loss and grief, silently questioning what happened to their child, and that would have certainly been understandable. From the very beginning, Ed and Sara were determined to keep Duffy’s disappearance in the public eye, encouraging and reminding community members to keep looking, listening, sharing, and calling in tips and clues, no matter how small. These ongoing efforts ensured that Duffy was not forgotten and that her community would not stop looking for her. Thank you to KBBI and Homer News for their ongoing coverage.

I believe that Ed and Sara’s tireless commitment to keeping Duffy’s case public was also instrumental in the Homer Police Department hiring Special Investigator Matt Haney. As a result of Matt’s exhaustive work and dedication, answers were brought to light, not all, but enough to provide her family and our community with a sense of finality, permission to stop searching, and to subside into our individual and collective grief. And we are not alone in our grief. The issue of murdered and missing individuals is an immense one, both across the country and here in Alaska, most notably in Indigenous populations. The Loved & Lost Memorial Bench is dedicated to all the lost ones and to those who love them. Thank you to Matt for all he has done, continues to do, and will be doing to help bring justice to Duffy, and peace and closure to her family, friends and community.

The Loved & Lost Memorial Bench was inspired by Duffy’s disappearance and envisioned by her family to honor her and to raise awareness to the issue of murdered and missing individuals. The enthusiasm and support it took to bring this bench to life during the past 14 months were no less than tremendous. Thank you to the many kind and caring hands and hearts involved, including artist Brad Hughes who created the clay sculptures, with artists Gregory Murnane, Art Koeninger and Gary Lyon helping, and Rob Wiard and Matt Prescott who cast the clay and made a mold, allowing the bench to be reproducible. Thank you to Homer City Council, Parks, Recreation, Art & Culture, and the Library Advisory Board for recognizing the importance of this memorial and approving its installation at the library. Thank you to the Public Works crew who prepared the library site for the bench and the Parks & Recreation folks who helped beautify the area for the memorial and dedication. Creating the sculptures off site and transporting them to the library was its own huge feat, made possible by the gentle care of Mike Kennedy, as well as John and Zack with SBS.

Our gratitude to Pastor Lisa Talbott with the Homer United Methodist Church for serving as our fiscal sponsor, with special thanks to David Nofziger for managing our accounting. To date, nearly 400 individuals, organizations and businesses have contributed to the memorial bench fund, donating $50,000 towards our $80,000 in expenses. THANK YOU! We are grateful for this incredible generosity and our fundraising efforts are ongoing, with the hopes of offsetting the expenses so that Duffy’s family doesn’t have to bare that burden, and in the hopes of creating scholarships to place benches in other communities who would like to honor their own missing loved ones in this way. Donations can continue to be made online at gofundme.com/f/lovedandlostmemorial or homerumcalaska.org/donate or by check payable to HUMC and mailed to 770 East End Rd, Homer, AK 99603, with “memorial bench” in the memo line.

The Duffy Memorial & Bench Dedication was moving and healing. Thank you to the volunteers, businesses who donated products and services, local presenters and those who joined from out of town, including families of other missing and murdered individuals, and everyone who shared stories about Duffy. If you missed it, the activities can be viewed on the Bring Duffy Home Facebook page. All are invited to stop by the Homer Public Library and enjoy the memorial bench in person, consider the sculptures, and read the information located inside the library’s front doors that includes Sara’s interpretations of the characters depicted, her vision brought to life by all involved.

It has been an honor to serve as project manager for the Loved & Lost Memorial Bench. My greatest joy has been witnessing the outpouring of love and support for this family and this beautiful and important memorial. There are no words to express Sara and Ed’s grief for the loss of their daughter Duffy, nor their gratitude for the love shown them. Thank you all for your kindness.

Christina Whiting served as project manager for the Loved & Lost Memorial Bench.