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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


‘Little Angels’ walk for the dead

Ernie Somoza/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

Children wait in line to create unique heads for the Little Angels Parade. The Procession was held at Armory park celebrating life and death.
Ernie Somoza
Ernie Somoza/ Arizona Daily Wildcat Children wait in line to create unique heads for the Little Angels Parade. The Procession was held at Armory park celebrating life and death.

Richard Davis held up a photograph of a smiling, young boy.

“”This is Drew at age 3,”” he said. “”And that photo there is his senior picture.””

Drew Davis, a graduate of Catalina Foothills High School and a junior at UA, died July 9, 2006. He was 22 years old. His parents, Richard and Kathy Davis, created a memorial altar for him on Saturday in Armory Park at the annual Personal Altar Vigil and Procession of Little Angels.

Their altar was one of many created by community members in remembrance of loved ones who have passed away.

“”Whatever was important to Drew, I brought,”” Kathy Davis said as she set small glass bowls of Skittles and mint Lifesavers on the table. “”These were his favorite candies.””

A few feet away from the altars, children prepared for the Procession of Little Angels, a community parade around downtown Tucson. The procession and vigil are both projects of Many Mouths One Stomach, a Tucson-based organization that coordinates many artistic and cultural events.  

Children played music with volunteer musicians, decorated sugar skulls and painted cardboard wings that they could wear in the procession.

Jhon Sanders, one of the event directors for the Procession of Little Angels and member of Many Mouths One Stomach, said the procession started in 2006 in response to community feedback.

“”People wanted something more family-oriented that connected with the All Souls Procession,”” Sanders said. “”It is quite different from the All Souls Procession because Procession of Little Angels is a kid-driven event. We let kid energy dictate what happens there.””

The purpose of the Procession of Little Angels is to provide families with the opportunity to open the discussion of mortality with their children, Sanders said.

“”We create the rough framework, they decide how to do it,”” Sanders said. “”We don’t impose, we just provide the opportunity.””

Jane Beiser heard about the event from her sister, Judith Willett, and traveled from San Diego to honor her family in the procession. She and her sister created an altar that represented all of their family who had passed, particularly their mother and father, Beiser said.

“”My children are going to come later in the day and there are probably a few things here even they haven’t heard. We tried to put a lot of stories and history into the altar,”” Willett said.

Nicole Zwickl attended the procession to watch her niece in the parade, as well as honor her grandfather with an altar her family had prepared.

“”I like all the activities they have for the kids. It is very inviting and everyone here is so friendly,”” Zwickl said.

Stories That Soar, a Tucson literacy and performing arts program, teamed up with Tucson Circus Arts to perform original stories written by children about their experiences with death as the final activity before the procession. Angels on stilts from Tucson Circus Arts led the children, bearing their personalized wings, on a procession around the downtown public square to the finale performance.

The procession attracted hundreds of people, including passersby like Ron Koeppel. Koeppel said he saw a flyer for the event that morning and decided to stop by.

“”I just think that this is a great way to honor the dead and acknowledge death,”” Koeppel said.

The altars were on display until 11 p.m. for public viewing.

“”The Personal Altars Vigil is a very good reminder of mortality and the fact that we all live and we all die,”” Sanders said.

The Davis’ said that many people had come up to their altar and asked about it.

“”It’s a way to heal. People who come to the procession see our altar and ask about Drew and it helps,”” Davis said,   “”When you get to start talking about it, it gets a little easier.””

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