SANBORN – The Niagara Wheatfield School Board Wednesday night supported a fundraising effort to memorialize Steven L. Johnson, the father of three female soccer players who was killed nearly four years ago when Flight 3407 crashed in Clarence Center.
The request, brought to the board by Gina Terbot of the girls soccer booster club, sought district backing to build four soccer shelters on the athletic fields for the varsity and junior varsity teams to remember the man who was a longtime supporter of the sport and a familiar sight at his daughters’ Niagara Wheatfield High School games.
Terbot was accompanied by Ashley, Chelsea, and Alexis Johnson, who all played soccer for the school and were honored to have the project initiated in memory of their dad. Two of the girls have graduated; Alexis is a senior.
Steven Johnson was one of four Northrop Grumman Amherst Systems employees on Flight 3407. The 52-year-old died along with 50 others when a Colgan Air flight crashed into a house on Feb. 12, 2009.
Terbot read a portion of a letter from Chelsea Johnson to the board that described her father’s devotion to the sport, and the girls’ participation, as well as the reaction of the daughters to the project. In the letter, she recounted all the time and effort Steven Johnson invested in his daughters’ soccer years.
“For my sisters and I, being approached to have dugouts dedicated to our father left us speechless,” she wrote.
“Since the plane crash, various memorials have been built to remember the 51 lives lost. However, not one of those monuments has been created to help us remember our father the way we feel he should be remembered.
“For us, having a place in our father’s name where he stood for so many years showing his support for our friends and us would mean the world. The dugouts can become a place to help people remember a kind and generous man who had a love for his daughters and a love for soccer that no one could ever take away, a quiet place to sit and think, as well as a place to shield players from the weather’s elements.
“Lastly, they can become a symbol of hope and strength that your life does not end when one life is taken, and that you must never give up on the soccer field or in the field of life, no matter what.”
Terbot said the club is looking at a number of different types of shelters before a final decision would be made on which type to construct, but she wanted the shelters to be permanent. She said the cost could be somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000.
She anticipated that the fundraising would take about five years to successfully complete, and that she would like the fundraising to kick-off next month on the anniversary of the crash.