Memorial structure planned for slain Ordway Elem. counselor

Every morning, Jeff McKinstry took up his post in front of Ordway Elementary School. There the popular counselor, known for forming strong bonds with students and for his liberal distribution of Jolly Rancher candy, greeted arriving buses with a smile.

Now that he’s gone, plans are under way to honor McKinstry with a memorial at what was once his favorite spot.

“It’s kind of marking his territory,” said Deborah Baker, a member of the 12-person Jeff McKinstry Memorial committee. “It will serve as a gentle reminder of all he’s done.”

McKinstry, 53, was killed in October at his Kingston home. His son, 21-year-old Garrett, was charged with first-degree murder in connection with his death and is undergoing a mental evaluation to determine if he’s fit to stand trial.

Before his death McKinstry spent 12 years with the Bainbridge Island School District, the last seven coming at Ordway. He was widely hailed for his ability to connect with the students he counseled.

There was a large turnout at a candlelight vigil for McKinstry shortly after his death. Now committee members – including Ordway parents, administration, local designers, and family and friends of McKinstry – are asking for the community’s help in erecting a permanent tribute. The committee was formed earlier this year. Its goal is to raise the $20,000 needed to build the memorial – to be dubbed “counselor’s corner” – in front of the school.

Fundraising began this month with a $5,000 donation from the Ordway Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization.

Plans call for a semicircular concrete bench near the school’s flagpole. Colored glass – symbolic of Jolly Ranchers – will be embedded in the structure. Statues of otters, the school’s mascot, also were included in the design by local landscape architect Tom Rengstorf.

“All the committee members came in with a very good understanding of the family and Jeff,” Baker said. “It’s a labor of love.”

Planners hope to break ground sometime next month so the project can be finished by the time school starts in September.

Ordway principal Bob Lewis said the memorial will be a cherished part of the campus.

“It will be a wonderful way of remembering someone who was such an important part of this school,” Lewis said. “And someone we miss very much.”

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