by Marene Gustin
It may be painful to remember that hot Houston night in July of 1991 when The Woodlands Ten, out on a murderous joyride through Montrose, attacked and killed Paul Broussard after asking him for directions to a local gay bar.
The gay-bashing murder made national headlines as the hunt for the 10 young men from The Woodlands began, followed by the trial, the LGBT community’s protest events, and what many called the too-light sentencing.
Yes, as painful as that horrible incident in our city’s history was, it’s important to remember that night in 1991 so that history doesn’t repeat itself.
Unfortunately, it did.
In December of last year, 28-year-old Aaron Scheerhoorn was stabbed to death in front of onlookers outside of Montrose’s Club Blur. The murder, which police believed to be a crime of passion and not a hate crime, might have been prevented. After Scheerhoorn was stabbed once, he escaped his assailant and ran toward the bar to beg the club’s doorman for help. Scheerhoorn was turned away, and 33-year-old Lydell Grant caught up with him in the parking lot and finished the job.
Friends of Scheerhoorn came together after the senseless death and created the Aaron Scheerhoorn Foundation for Change, which has nonprofit status under the umbrella of the GLBT Community Center.
“It’s about honoring his memory and keeping the Montrose community safe,” says member Alan Everett.
To that end, the group is organizing a Safe Shelter Agreement between bars and businesses in the neighborhood. By signing, they agree to offer shelter to others in life-threatening situations.
The foundation is also creating a patrol group called Aaron’s Angels. “They’re like the old Q-Patrols,” Everett says. “We’re enlisting volunteers now, and the police department will train them. They will have Aaron’s Angel T-shirts and patrol the neighborhood to keep things safe and help people in need.
“And then we also thought we should honor Aaron on his birthday,” adds Everett. “Someone thought of a balloon release, then somebody else suggested we plant a tree—and it just went from there.”
That idea has morphed into the Montrose Remembrance Garden.
The group bought a tree, and while deciding where to plant it, Charles Armstrong, owner of South Beach, JR’s, The Mining Co., and Meteor, offered a small plot of land. The 30-foot by 30-foot plot sits at the corner of California and Grant streets. What was once a littered, scruffy lot and hotel for homeless folks is now a well-manicured little garden with decorative rocks, flowers, three sago palms, and Aaron’s tree—all thanks to Armstrong and Glennwood Weber Design.
“I cannot say enough about Charles,” Everett says. “It’s his land and he’s paid for the landscaping. This would not have happened without him.”
The Aaron Scheerhoorn Foundation for Change is getting ready to dedicate the Montrose Remembrance Garden in early July. The date is still to be determined, but you can keep up with the developments on Facebook (search Montrose Remembrance Garden to find their Wall). The ceremony will include speakers and a candlelight ceremony.
“Down the road, we hope to have name plaques or such,” Everett adds. But the group wants to commemorate more than just one name.
“We started out to honor Aaron,” he says. “But now we want to remember all of them: Aaron, Paul Broussard, Marion Pantzer, Asher Brown, Myra Chanel Ical, and Fred Paez.” All victims of hate crimes, crimes of passion, bullying, and senseless violence.
So the little corner lot a block north of Westheimer will serve as a reminder of not just the violence, but of the victims and their lives—a place where friends and family can reflect and honor them in a peaceful setting filled with nature’s beauty.
Montrose Remembrance Garden Dedication will be held on Thursday, July 28 at 8:15 p.m. For more information or to see pictures and videos, go to www.facebook.com/pages/Montrose-Remembrance-Garden.