A year ago, grounds staff at Northern Illinois University decided to plant some flowers in a neglected garden plot in front of the Neptune North residence hall.
Despite the fear that steam pipes running under the garden plot would prevent the flowers from growing, the plants are flourishing, according to NIU employee Thelma Holderness.
Planted in honor of Antinette “Toni” Keller, the garden is now home to large sunflowers, some as tall as 12 feet.
Keller, an 18-year-old freshman at the campus, was known for the self-designed sunflower tattoo she had on her chest — a tattoo she loved because it made people happy, friends said.
For the second year, grounds staff are maintaining the flowers in front of the residence hall where Keller lived.
The art student from was reported missing in October 2010 after telling friends she was going to DeKalb’s Prairie Park to take photos for an assignment.
Her remains were discovered in the park two days later.
William “Billy” Curl, accused in the sexual assault and murder of Keller, is scheduled to stand trial in December.
Now, the flowers pay tribute to Keller, known for her love of art, music and her passion for making people happy.
Holderness, an administrator for the Summoning of Yellow Facebook page, dedicated to supporting the Keller family, said she’s been harvesting seeds from the large flowers.
“I’ve harvested seeds from five spent flower heads,” she said, adding she plans to send some to Roger Keller, Toni’s dad, along with several other supporters of the family.
In addition to the sunflower garden, supporters and the DeKalb Elks Lodge are hoping to pay tribute to Toni with a sunflower bench. The bench would be installed in Prairie Park, alongside a white cross erected in Keller’s memory.
For more information on the donation drive,
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