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Suwanee woman creates public art memorial fund for sister

SUWANEE -- The best way to describe Laura Sanders-Neidlinger is with a picture her sister keeps on her cellphone.

Neidlinger is wearing pigtails with hairbands that don't match, a hat, no makeup -- naturally beautiful, her sister Cathy Rohloff said.

That's the personality Rohloff remembers about her sister, a non-conformist with a funky personality who cared about people. After all, Rohloff said, she was a nurse. Neidlinger, who fought cervical cancer for more than four years, and "never accepted she was going to die," passed away last month. She was 38.

One of Neidlinger's wishes was to be cremated, and her husband, Jeromie, plans to scatter the ashes in favorite places they traveled and dreamed to visit.

As funeral plans and memorial services were expected, Rohloff woke up the morning after her sister's death, and knew the perfect way to honor her memory.

She didn't want to spend time in a "cheesy" funeral parlor with jewel-toned green carpet. Flowers were a waste of money, in her sister's eyes. A bench didn't fit.

"I'm not going to have these things my sister wouldn't agree with," Rohloff said. "The first thing I thought about was public art."

So Rohloff set out on a project to raise money in her sister's name to purchase a piece of art and donate it to the city to display as part of Suwanee's SculpTour public art exhibit. Donations to the memorial fund can be made through the website https://www.wepay.com/donations/laura-memorial. The fund has 79 donors and nearly $7,000 of its goal of $15,000. Rohloff expects the piece to be displayed in Town Center Park or Sims Lake Park.

"I know in my heart it's the right thing to do for her," said Rohloff, who added that her sister would think this is a 'cool idea.' "A grave marker is not right for everybody."

The pieces of art under consideration all have elements of Neidlinger's personality: bold, sweet innocence, playful and makes a statement. In short, a funky, cool chick.

Rohloff is still researching the durability and price of each of the three pieces under consideration.

"I want something that will be around for generations," Rohloff said.

Neidlinger, a Norcross native who lived in Suwanee, was artsy, her sister said, but from a hobby perspective. Jeromie, a self-employed website designer, is a semi-professional artist.

Rohloff said the reasons she chose Suwanee for this project is the city's high standards for art and that the artists had already been vetted. And that Neidlinger's father and brother drive by Suwanee regularly, and live nearby.

While cervical cancer is typically treatable, Rohloff said, Neidlinger's case was misdiagnosed until she exaggerated her symptoms. Any extra monies collected through the memorial fund will be donated to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition.

"If this helps one person avoid cancer, it's worth it," Rohloff said.