Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

County says mother went too far erecting roadside memorial

It was a Sunday night, just after 7 p.m. in July of 2010 when eleven year-old Max Yandow was tragically killed while riding his bicycle on Maple Avenue in the Town of Palmyra.

Max, along with another boy, were reportedly riding against traffic and partially in the lane.

Following his death, family and friends first left flowers and messages at the site of the accident. Max’s mother, Renee Corwin, called Wayne County Highway Superintendent Kevin Rooney to see if erecting a memorial would be a problem. Kevin thought the memorial would be another roadside cross, or symbol, adorned with flowers and trinkets that would dwindle with time.

Across Wayne County highways, small signs and crosses dot the landscape where highway deaths have occurred. Some have faded as years have passed, others are still maintained by loved ones years after tragic events.

Corwin and friends went a step further in memorializing her lost son. Erected near the spot of the accident is a permanent cemented-in large shadow box display where family and friends stop and leave messages and mementos.

Neighbors became concerned about traffic and people stopping near the curve. Town and County officials worried about liabilities to slowing-down vehicles and pedestrians.

Rooney took concerns to the County Attorney and to the Public Works Committee of the Wayne Board of Supervisors. Citing highway law that prohibits advertising signs, displays or devices from being erected within the County right-of-way. “We have determined that this structure is within the right-of-way of Maple Avenue.” According to Public Works Chairman, Sodus Supervisor Steve LeRoy, the Committee agreed with both the County Attorney and Rooney that the permanent display was a potential liability and danger to motorists and pedestrians and ordered it removed. LeRoy said a permanent memorial is proper for a cemetery, not for the side of the road.

Corwin became upset with the order to remove the roadside memorial after receiving the letter from the County Highway Superintendent. “The Town and County are sympathetic to your loss and have allowed the memorial to stand in place for many months., However, based upon these regulations (listed above), I am asking that this memorial be removed within 45 days (Dated December 29, 2011),” read the letter. Rooney added in the letter that if assistance was needed in removing the memorial, his department would provide staff and equipment.

Corwin wrote to local politicians and contacted the media in Wayne County and Rochester to solicit help.

The County has refused any further comment to the media and stands by the decision.

In a letter to the Times, following the County decision, Renee Corwin wrote to her supporters:

“Please don’t feel that your efforts and letter writing fell on deaf ears, for it did not at all.
I have received many letters and e-mails in support of keeping this memorial and to join the fight by our Mayor Mrs. Daly and many other officials, but it cannot be changed because of New York State Highway and County Highway laws.”