'Sunnyside Angels' memorialized with handcrafted table

From left, Ted Dry, Jim Engstrom, Ryan Iverson and his son Gavin, and Jodie Dry sit around the tale that Engstrom built to honor Sunnyside Elementary
From left, Ted Dry, Jim Engstrom, Ryan Iverson and his son Gavin, and Jodie Dry sit around the tale that Engstrom built to honor Sunnyside Elementary's 'Angels,' who include Ted and Jodie's daughter, Ashton, and Ryan's other son, Ethan.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

MARYSVILLE — Within the past decade, Sunnyside Elementary has said farewell to five of its students before their time, most recently Ethan Iverson, who passed away June 30 of last year.

On June 3 of this year, Sunnyside Elementary invited the families of those students back for a tribute to their "Sunnyside Angels," handcrafted by Jim Engstrom.

Engstrom already had plans for an eight-sided Western Red Cedar table, with attached benches, to replace some of the older tables and benches at the school, when he salvaged wood from an American Sweet Chestnut tree that had been planted in Oso a century ago. He redesigned the table to have a rising sun design on one end to represent the school, with the sun and five of its rays made from American Sweet Chestnut.

"I hadn't even known that there had been five early deaths before I put in those five rays of the sun," Engstrom said. "The sun set early on those kids."

Engstrom noted that American Sweet Chestnut had been wiped out on the East Coast, which he saw as a connection to the children who had passed away before they could graduate from the school. He added that he felt a connection to Ethan Iverson, since Engstrom's father was named Ivar, which he pointed out makes him an "Ivar's son" too.

Engstrom estimated that he worked on the table for two months, off and on, but was quick to declare it "nothing compared to what you all did" for Iverson, when the school and community came together to raise funds for the boy's family.

"We're so much more than a school here," Sunnyside Elementary Principal Todd Christensen said. "We're really a family. We expect our students to grow up and move on, but the ones that leave unexpectedly especially touch our hearts. We want this table to be used and in view for a long time, to keep these 'Sunnyside Angels' in our memory."

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