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Hidden in Plain Sight: Brooke’s Garden
Emily Pajak '21 Associate Editor
November 8, 2019

Adding to the beautiful familiarity of the Deerfield campus are the various artistic depictions that highlight and preserve Deerfield traditions and memories. Among such sculptures one might see around campus is Brooke’s Garden, a memorial situated next to the Arms building on the way up the stairs towards the Hess.

The memorial itself is composed of two rounded cement benches outlining a circular patio with a square stone in its center.

This memorial commemorates the life of a beloved student, Brooke Emmens Gonzalez ’97, who died in a tragic car accident soon after her time at Deerfield.

Credit: Izzy Hamlen

She had just begun her first fall at Brown University.

The memorial honors the mark her life and death left on the Deerfield community. The square marker is inscribed with Gonzalez’s date of birth and death: January 20th, 1979 and September 4th, 1997, respectively.

The benches are engraved with the names of long-time faculty members. Just outside the bounds of the circular patio is a raised stone dome coated in a constant film of water.

Gonzalez  was a devoted Deerfield student who built strong ties to the community during her time at Deerfield as the Vice President of the senior class, a cherished proctor, and a commendable athlete.

Gonzalez was especially dedicated to the sport of sailing; she was twice a member of the U.S. International 420 Sailing Team, and had competed in two world championships.

Today, her parents continue to exude her passion for the sport by running an advanced racing clinic every summer, which will meet for its 18th annual running this summer in Newport, RI.

In addition to the Garden, along the path to the dining hall a marker is inscribed with the words “Resist the Ordinary,” a motto Gonzalez adhered to both during and after her time at Deerfield. This inscription embodies Gonzalez’s legacy, as she honored this motto throughout her life.

Longtime Science Teacher and Science Department Chair Heidi Valk, who knew Gonzalez personally, remembers her as “a standout student and involved community member.”

When standing on the square slab at the center of the memorial, students will be pleasantly surprised to find that the spot serves as a whispering gallery, giving the space an intriguing effect and capturing the essence of “resisting the ordinary.”

In the wake of the tragic event, the Deerfield community built the memorial to serve as a place for all to coalesce in reflection and unity on campus.

The community continues to enjoy the space frequently, whether it be by simply strolling by the memorial or spending a class outside to savor a few quiet minutes in the sun before taking on the rest of a hectic Deerfield day.

English Teacher Mark Scandling reflected upon the memorial saying, “Though I did not know Brooke well, sitting or passing by the Garden always reminds me of the way a school community rises to the demands of a tragic loss. In those moments, we truly discover the resilience and resonance of school spirit.”

Thus, even though the students that roam the campus now, just over two decades after Gonzalez’s time at Deerfield, cannot personally attest to her evident spirit, zest for life, and compassionate heart, they can certainly acknowledge and admire the silent beauty of her presence.

Memorials such as these lie embedded deep in the vines that make up Deerfield’s sweeping tree of tradition, culture, and history. Look deeper.