Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — A group of Fairfield residents gathered at Chautauqua Park last Thursday afternoon to remember Nohema Graber on the one-year anniversary of her death.
Graber, 66, was a Spanish teacher at Fairfield High School, active in the Catholic Church, and a frequent visitor to that very park, which she was known to walk through every day after school. Since her passing on Nov. 2, 2021, a memorial bench in her honor was installed in the northwest corner of the park, and a large bouquet of flowers sits beside it.
Fairfield resident Lou Bolster organized Thursday’s walk for two reasons, he said.
“One is to remember Nohema and remember the tragedy that happened here, but it’s also about reconnecting with the park, to get people comfortable with it and to embrace the park again,” he said.
Bolster was referring to the fact that Graber’s body was discovered in Chautauqua Park, where prosecutors believe she was murdered by two Fairfield juveniles who ambushed her during her daily walk. Bolster said news of the incident has made some of his friends wary about returning to Chautauqua Park.
“When I announced this walk on Facebook, very quickly I got a few responses from people who said, ‘I love the park, but I can’t go there anymore,’” he said. “I think it’s important to have events here, and to remind people that it’s a beautiful place, a healing place.”
When the group reached Graber’s memorial, they stopped for a moment of silence. Bolster then read the following poem:
Tread lightly on me
Allow me the space to remember
Not that I may hang onto the past
But that I adjust for the future
Even embrace the future
Of my new reality
Some of the people who attended the walk said they didn’t know Graber personally, but felt it was important to show their support for her. Christina Sanchez lives near Chautauqua Park, and walks her dogs through the park every day.
“We pass by [her memorial] every day and we say hello to her,” Sanchez said. “I don’t think she should be forgotten, even though I didn’t know her. Her memory lives on in this park.”
Hannah Graber attended the walk to remember her Aunt Nohema. Hannah’s father is the cousin of Nohema’s ex-husband Paul. Nohema and Paul had three children together, Christian, Nohema Marie and Jared. Hannah said she has always enjoyed get-togethers with the extended Graber family, and has fond memories of Nohema.
“She would always bring flan to our Christmas events,” Hannah said, referring to the baked custard dish popular in Mexico, Nohema’s home country. “That was very out of the norm for our otherwise white, conservative, farmer family. I’m sure it was the first time anybody there had ever had flan.”
Hannah said her family has a tradition of singing songs between Christmas dinner and opening presents. Nohema loved to take this opportunity to sing Christmas carols in Spanish.
“She was always really happy to share her culture,” Hannah said.
Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org