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Sydney Loofe’s smile radiates from the top of the wooden box.
Thee inches by three inches, it’s a small square box. But it contains the weight of the world for George and Susie Loofe since they tragically lost their 24-year-old daughter last winter.
Inside the box are two of Sydney’s crystals. One — an amethyst — was her favorite. The other — a rose quartz — means love, peace and the bond with family and friends.
The box and its contents will be presented as a thank you to the Ponca Tribe on Wednesday afternoon as they dedicate a bench in Sydney’s honor in Neligh’s Riverside Park along the Elkhorn River. The public is invited to the 3 p.m. dedication.
“It’s a perfect location,” said her mother, Susie. “It’s right at the curve of the river, so you can see the south and to the west. She would have loved that and thought it was a perfect spot. It’s just perfect.”
Her father, George, agreed. Fishing was something the family enjoyed together.
“We mentioned that she liked to fish and the river would be a nice place for the bench. The bench will say something to the effect of, ‘In memory of Sydney Loofe, who is now fishing with the angels,’ ” George said with a smile.
The dedication of the bench will be exactly 141 years to the date of White Buffalo Girl’s death. The Ponca Tribe was passing through Neligh toward Oklahoma on the journey known as the Trail of Tears. When the child died, the Poncas asked the Neligh community to care for their daughter’s grave.
For 141 years, Neligh has done just that, and Ponca Tribal Chairman Larry Wright, Jr., said the Poncas are offering the same for Neligh’s daughter, Sydney Loofe.
“Historically, the connection between us and Neligh is strong,” he said. “It’s for the commitment that the community of Neligh has shown for all of these years and taking care of the gravesite of one of our own. This dedication is for one of their own.”
The Loofes were contacted by Candace Bossard, a member of the Tribal Council, about honoring Sydney. Wright said the council felt strongly about working with the family.
Sydney was living in Lincoln when she went missing after a Tinder date. A massive nationwide search ensued and her body was found in Clay County about three weeks later. The search made national news, and Wright said it hit home for him since he lives in Lincoln and had the connection to Neligh through his tribe.
“What happened was very tragic. It was a terrible situation,” he said. “This bench is a small thing that we could do to reciprocate. Having a symbol like that at the location that was special to Sydney and her family just really adds to it. It’s just us trying to pay it back a little bit.”
While it may seem small, it means a great deal to the Loofes, who will have their daughter, Mackenzie, and son, Levi, also on hand for the dedication. Knowing the significance of the date and time period, the Loofes said they were very touched by the gesture.
“That happened nearly 150 years ago to the date,” Susie said. “There have been a lot of tragic things that have happened since then, so it’s amazing and awesome that they chose our daughter to recognize and honor the way that they recognize and honor their daughter.”