COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A few weeks back, NBC4 reported on a bench placed in Groveport, made out of recycled plastic to honor an employee of Republic Services, Kristi Sparks, who had died suddenly.
Sparks must have been someone special, so I had to ask the people who gathered around that bench to tell me more.
Trash. Sparks loved trash. “Hold it, she went through people’s trash? “ I asked Republic Billing Supervisor Keilah Harrell. “She did. She was that serious about it.”
Serious about recycling Kristi was, and as the data entry specialist at Republic, she made trash repurposing her business.
“Drivers knew Kristi, operations knew Kristi, maintenance knew Kristi, everyone knew Kristi, “ says her co-worker and best friend, Adria Kilbager.
A year ago, she called in sick with a headache. The next phone call Harrell got was much worse.
“Kristi died, and I hit the floor,” said Harrell. A brain aneurism took her at 55 years old.
“I just couldn’t believe, I just couldn’t believe it,” her sister Kathy Hart told me as I sat around the picnic table with her siblings. Sparks and her sisters were thick as thieves, as they say.
“If you were her friend, you were her friend for life,” said Michael, Sparks’ husband of 31 years.
To honor Sparks, they went through the trash.
“I wanted her husband to be able to walk across the street and sit on the bench and be with her,” Kilbager said. “That’s what I wanted.”
So, Republic employees collected 85 pounds of bottle caps and such recycled into a bench, right across the street from Sparks’ house off Main street in Groveport.
“It’s kind of nice to just sit there and reflect, kind of brings her back,” Michael said.
“Is there a feeling when you sit on this bench?” I asked her co-workers. ”Yes, she’s there. She is there.”
“So will you guys be regulars on that bench,” I asked her sisters. “Oh, you bet.”
“It’s like a happy bench, a happy bench. Nobody will ever forget her.”