SYCAMORE – As the sun set over Sycamore Lake Rotary Park, Tonda Ranken ran her fingers over a picture of her 11-year-old son, Matthew, who was killed in a crash last year.
The picture is featured on the bench commemorating Matthew Ranken in the park where he loved to fish with his brother Aaron. Matthew Ranken’s family gathered April 11 to dedicate the concrete memorial bench, on the south side of Sycamore Lake Rotary Park.
“This is where he would be now if he was here,” Tonda Ranken said.
Kane County Judge James Hallock on March 26 sentenced Benjamin Black, 29, of Sycamore, to 12 years in prison for driving with heroin in his system during the crash that killed Matthew.
Black was driving his SUV about 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27, 2013, near the intersection of Route 64 in Kane County when he crashed into the back of a Chevrolet Cavalier, authorities said. The crash killed Matthew and severely injured 19-year-old Teale Noble, also of Sycamore; both were passengers in the Cavalier. Matthew’s older brother, Nick Weber, of Sycamore, was driving.
The bench also features a poem Tonda Ranken wrote in Matthew’s voice asking his loved ones to cherish the memories they shared with him. She said the poem came to her with ease because he never wanted to see people sad.
“This is a happy moment. This is a good thing for us,” she said. “I don’t want people to forget him and I know they won’t.”
Matthew’s dad, Larry Ranken said the bench, while wonderful, couldn’t make up for what he’s lost.
“I hate that I have to come here to see him,” Larry Ranken said. “I should be able to pull in my driveway and have him hug me like he did every night.”
The informal gathering was marked with tears, but also laughter and smiles. The family played with Noble and Weber’s son, Jett Weber Noble, whom they plan to spend plenty of time with at the bench. They also comforted each other and traded stories of Matthew.
“It’s never going to bring my brother back, but it’s a nice way to remember him,” Weber said as Aaron fished in the background.
Tina Scott, Tonda Ranken’s sister, pictures the family having picnics and visiting with Matthew at the bench to bring the family some solace.
“After the accident all I can remember is darkness,” Scott said. “This is a little bit of light.”