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Remembering Anna

Students at Cedaroak Park Primary are to honor 8-year-old Anna Kawecki, who died, along with her mother, in a car crash near Mt. Hood
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Quilts are a crafted work of art to warm those who bundle up in them. They are stitched with care, focal pieces in a linen collection and hold memories from the different fabrics united as one.

As third-graders from Tracy Meurisse's class at Cedaroak Park Primary School in West Linn decorate cloth squares, they think fondly about memories of their classmate, Anna Kawecki.

Eight-year-old Anna - along with her mother Anita Kawecki, 48, of West Linn - died in a car crash that took place on New Year's Eve. A funeral will soon be held in Poland, where Anita is originally from.

The quilt students are creating this month will not only serve to keep Anna's family members warm from the cold, but to also warm their hearts in this sad time.

'Anna was a cheerful girl; she had a lot of friends. Some of her interests were (the movie) High School Musical and she did ballet,' said Anna's 25-year-old brother Jacek Kawecki. 'She was a pretty cool little girl. She got along well with everybody. She was so much fun.'

At 7:50 a.m. on Friday, the student body at Cedaroak will honor Anna in their morning assembly.

'This is our school's way to honor the memory of Anna,' said Sharon Newman, principal at Cedaroak Park. 'We start every day together as a school family; it creates a sense of community.'

At the 10-minute gathering, Anna's classmates will share some memories and discuss the quilt they are sewing, which has been named 'The Best Things About Anna.' They also will sing a song which Anna helped start writing, but they finished and dedicated the song's final verse to her.

Family was going skiing

In September, Anita Kawecki took some time off from her work as a physician at Kaiser Permanente to spend more time with her daughter, said her son Jacek Kawecki.

Kawecki and his girlfriend of three years, Alisa Huttes, 24, of Minneapolis, rented a vacation home to spend time with Kawecki's family.

'We're really close,' Kawecki said, of Huttes and his family. '(Huttes) is completing her last year of law school right now.'

They - along with Anna, Anita and Kawecki's 17-year old brother David Kawecki - left in the morning to go skiing at Mt. Hood Meadows on Mt. Hood. Anna enjoyed downhill and cross-country skiing.

Oregon State Police said that the car crash happened at 11 a.m. on New Year's Eve when the Kawecki's 2005 Honda Accord collided with a 1988 Chevy Blazer on Highway 35, south of Odell.

Investigators said slick roads that morning caused the car to spin 180 degrees into the northbound lane. According to OSP, Kawecki was accelerating up a hill in the left lane passing another vehicle. That is when the rear of the Honda collided with the front-end of the Blazer, driven by David Dolan, 21, from Kelso, Wash.

Kawecki was driving the Honda, with brother David by his side and Anita behind him with Anna on her lap. Alisa was seated behind David. Kawecki wore a seatbelt and was not injured, OSP said.

David Kawecki, was rushed to Hood River Hospital and later released with minor injuries. He is a high school student in British Columbia.

Anita, who was not wearing a seatbelt, according to police, was transported by a Lifeflight helicopter to Oregon Health and Sciences University Hospital and died from her injuries the next morning, Jan 1. Anna also died early that Tuesday morning at Legacy Emanuel Hospital.

Huttes remains in critical condition at Legacy Emanuel Hospital and in a chemically induced coma, Kawecki said. She also was not wearing a seatbelt, according to police.

Dolan, who was alone in his vehicle, was using a seatbelt and was treated and released from Hood River Hospital with minor injuries.

'It's hard to deal with this, off and on. I have a lot of friends from college who are helping out, and my mom's friends have been extremely helpful - neighbors and her work friends have been bringing us food,' Jacek Kawecki said.

Kawecki is a naval engineer in Washington D.C., who was in Oregon for the holidays.

'What we're really trying to do is get past this and move on. That sounds a little cold,' Kawecki said through tears, 'but, there's just no way to change what happened.'

Coping with the loss

Newman felt that it was best to operate Cedaroak Park last week and this week as usual, as children are often comforted by a routine. The students were informed of the death of Anna and a school counselor was available to answer any questions.

Meurisse read the book 'Tear Soup' to her class. The book is about a woman who makes tear soup when she experiences loss. It discusses how everyone puts in their own ingredients and some soups take longer to cook than others.

'I answered all of their questions honestly and told them that I knew they would have more in the upcoming days - they have had more,' Meurisee said. 'There were a few tears in class, but I have had a lot of parents contacting me on their children's fears of being alone, dying in their sleep and having trouble sleeping.'

The hardest questions Meurisse had to answer were, 'Did she hurt?' and 'Was she scared?'

Meurisse said that Friday's gathering will help bring closure to the mourning and demonstrate how greatly Anna will be missed.

She was a quiet student that smiled often. She was sweet and thoughtful, Meurisse said. Anna was a gifted artist with good penmanship and she adored animals, especially her dog and pet rat. She also taught her classmates how to say some words in Polish.

The quilt will include a square from each of Meurisse's 20 students and will include illustrations and writings about Anna. It will be in green and orange, two of Anna's favorite colors.

The border will hold messages from students, staff and community members. Anna often participated in an after-school class on quilt making, Newman said.

Students are invited to bring a card, flower or picture of a flower for Anna's remembrance gathering tomorrow. The Kawecki family will attend if they are able. Some family members are already in Poland preparing for the funerals.

To help defray medical, funeral and travel expenses to the funeral in Poland, Kawecki plans to set up a contribution fund at a local bank.

Newman said that Anna was, 'sweet and kind to everyone' and that Anita was a positively involved parent at Cedaroak.

Tomorrow morning students will celebrate a little girl they loved very much. Newman said that already the West Linn community has been very supportive in this time.

'We celebrate her life and we're happy she was here,' Newman said. 'We're going to always fondly remember her.'