June 26, 2018 -- One of Steve Kanner’s many passions was creating spaces that bring people together and foster a sense of belonging and community. That is exactly what his memorial at Noble Elementary School is designed to do.
Kanner, a 1978 Heights High graduate and the father of rising Heights Middle School 7th grader Mira Whitaker-Kanner, was Treasurer of the Noble PTA when he died unexpectedly in August 2015.
The school PTA is currently working with his wife, Karly Whitaker, to install a memorial consisting of a weeping cherry tree and a bench on the school playground. “To see people sitting on that bench, listening to kids laughing and watching them play – there’s nothing that would make Steven happier,” said Whitaker recently.
The dedication for the memorial will be held at Noble School on Sunday, July 1 at 11:30 am, the day after Mira’s Bat Mitzvah, which will allow for the inclusion of many out-of-town family and friends. The public is also invited to celebrate the life and legacy of this dedicated district parent, who was deeply committed to his neighborhood public school.
“Steve believed that schools aren't just for the children; they’re community centers for everyone,” said Whitaker.
Kanner’s involvement at Noble included establishing a scholarship fund so that all students could participate in after-school activities, spearheading a potluck dinner to engage the families of refugee students, and organizing a Women’s History Month celebration that included a speaker series of female judges, business owners, elected officials and so on to engage with the students and present diverse examples of what women could accomplish. As someone who majored in Women’s Studies and Childcare at Miami of Ohio, Kanner was a “passionate feminist,” according to his wife.
He was also everybody’s cheerleader, said Summer Watterson, who took over the PTA Treasurer job following Kanner’s death. “Steve believed in every bad idea,” she said. “He would always say, ‘How can we make this work?’”
His constant desire to bring people together combined with his free spirited approach to life will be well represented by the memorial on the Noble playground. “Karly nailed it with this idea,” said Watterson. “The tree – a living thing that will bring beauty to this space – and the bench – another place for people to sit and be together. To me, that’s who Steve was.”
The school PTA helped Whitaker organize an online fundraiser to purchase the tree, bench and accompanying plaques. The tree will bear a bronze image of the famous “War is not healthy for children and other living things” painting and the bench will feature a favorite Bruce Springsteen quote of Kanner’s: “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.”
Whitaker hopes the space will be a comfort to her daughter, a place she can visit and think of her father. “Mira was definitely a daddy’s girl,” said Whitaker.
Now she will have the opportunity to join together with others who loved her father and celebrate his life with the things he treasured most: people coming together in their community. “We will definitely sing and dance,” said Whitaker of Sunday’s activities. “Steve loved sing-alongs. This will be the perfect place for that.”