Mark Landry Trail is born at Jesus, Our Risen Savior

SPARTANBURG – Deep in the woods behind Jesus, Our Risen Savior Church, dozens of parishioners spent a recent Saturday morning sweating among stinging insects and spewing sawdust to help realize a vision.

The vision belonged to a boy who was struck with the idea of memorializing a friend as he planned a project to earn scouting’s highest honor, the Eagle Scout ranking. His project will also benefit the very faith community that came to help him on Sept. 13.

The boy with the vision is Benjamin J. Weiskircher; his friend was Mark Landry, a fellow Boy Scout, who died in a plane crash a year ago. Ben’s plan involved the construction of what he calls a reflection trail and the dedication of it to Mark’s memory.

“I just thought about it,” Ben said. “I really wanted to do something for Mark and his family.”

What he did, according to the head of the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus, was to plan and execute a major operation, and solicit enough help to make it work.

“Ben laid out the trail. He came up with the idea and brought it to our council. We got excited about it and offered to support it financially,” said Ron Stanley, grand knight of Mary Queen of Peace Council.

The Knights are the chartering organization for Ben’s scouting unit, Troop 79, so that was a logical place to start. The eighth-grader went the next logical step and asked the parish to help.

“This is really a warm community, and the church was so close to the (Landry) family, that they came out in droves,” said M. J. Weiskircher, Ben’s mom.

Those droves included fellow Scouts, the parish confirmation class, Knights, and parishioners like Mark Morgan, who paused in his Saturday labors long enough to verbalize his rationale for giving up a beautiful weekend day to help.

“I never seem to have much time, but I used to be involved in scouting and wanted to help,” Morgan said, as he wiped sweat and wood chips from his face.

The reason was more personal for Brian Landry, the older brother of Mark. He called the project “a tribute.”

“The trail’s a good way to remember him. It’ll get used a lot and people who use it will think of him,” Brian Landry said. “My family’s happy about it.”

While Brian cleared brush, his father, Brian Landry Sr., was cementing in a sign designating the half-mile route as the “Mark Landry Reflection Trail.” It winds through the woods, starting and ending just behind the church. Once the workers had cleared and lined the dirt path with fallen timber, and placed the benches donated by the Knights, a person could stroll it easily in 15 minutes. It was quiet in the hardwood forest when the chain saws and wood chipper stopped, and the trail seemed aptly named. Mark’s dad liked the concept.

“The fact that he (Ben) thought enough to make it in memory of my son … it chokes me up,” Landry said.

Mark’s mother, Pat, was also fighting tears as she helped organize the squads of workers who came to help. One group of youngsters who were putting on gloves and swabbing themselves with bug repellent particularly moved the still-grieving mother.

“This would have been Mark’s confirmation class,” Pat Landry said.

It was hard work and held an element of danger. Men wielded saws and axes and used a roaring wood chipper as they cut up trees that had fallen in long-ago storms. One young worker was attacked by a nest of hornets and received enough stings to merit a ride to the nearby emergency room. Some of the men in the woods were not young, and many were physically beaten by noon. But it was something they wanted to do, and all seemed glad to have put out the effort.

Pat Landry smiled and called the communal effort in memory of her son “unbelievable.’