Mairissa People left this world way soon.
She was only 23 when she died after a long battle with cancer on March 13. The Maroon Activities Center will make sure she is never forgotten.
By the middle of this summer, anyone who enters the MAC — or even drives by — will be reminded of a spirit that touched so many. The MAC will forever hold a reminder of “Mairissa’s Way.”
Butte sign maker John Weitzel is designing a sign that will welcome people to the arena that was so special to Peoples. The sign will sit on Mercury Street at the turnoff to the MAC parking lot.
The sign will read “Maroon Activities Center” above a three-line reader board that will advertise upcoming games and events. Below the reader board will be the words “Mairissa’s Way.”
“It’s accomplishing a couple of things,” said Bernie Boyle, a man who was instrumental in building the MAC in the first place. “We’re getting a sign, plus it’s honoring Mairissa. The MAC has been up since 2005 and we have no sign down there.”
The sign, though, is only the beginning of Mairissa’s Way.
Inside the lobby of the MAC will feature several large displays with photos and writings by Peoples, who battled cancer for nearly seven years.
By both doors into the arena will be a sign that will read, “All that enter this way are asked to live life to the fullest and embody the spirit of Mairissa Peoples.”
One of the signs will include a mission statement written by Peoples in college. Traci O’Neill, her former professor at Montana Tech, gave the statement to her parents after her death.
Here it is:
“I will …
“Be loving and selfless in my relationships as a daughter, granddaughter, sister, cousin, girlfriend and friend
“Never forget where I have been or take my mind off where I am going
“Act with integrity
“Always be kind, compassionate, honest, thankful, selfless, and giving
“Always strive to be a better me
“Always have a desire to achieve
“Face adversity with confidence, faith, and an open mind
“Learn from my success, and even more from my failures
“Never take anything for granted
“Never compromise my beliefs and always stand for what I believe is right
“Make an impact on the world.”
Boyle and Tane Schulte, who works in the Butte Central Development office, are two of a handful of people who were determined to honor the memory of Peoples.
“We don’t want her or her plight to be forgotten,” Schulte said. “So in 20 years kids will read about what she did and how she lived her life.”
At first, they approached the Peoples family about renaming the building the Mairissa Peoples Activities Center. Her family, led by her parents Don and Barb, insisted, however, that it was important to keep the name of the building that has become part of the fabric of Butte Central.
Further discussions led b to Mairissa’s Way.
“She would love it because it’s simple and it is her spirit,” Schulte said. “It will be really nice. Tasteful.”
The sign will be held up by rod iron braces that will be reminiscent of the signs for the many gallows frames on the hill. The sign will also feature a cobble stone base.
“Aesthetically, it fits with Uptown Butte,” Schulte said.
Boyle said the sign will cost roughly $27,000. He said he optimistic that a grant from the Urban Revitalization Agency might be received. Such a grant would pay for 30 percent.
“We’re pretty sure we’re going to be able to raise the rest of the money,” Boyle said.
Boyle said the plan is for the sign to be completed by July 15. That’s when Butte Central will celebrate 100 years of athletics with a two-day event at the Knights of Columbus and the MAC.
“We hope to have the sign up by the big gala,” Boyle said. “No big fanfare. It’s just going to go up and people will see it.”
Mairissa Peoples was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in her hip in late 2007, her junior year at Butte Central.
She underwent a bunch of surgeries and was declared cancer free multiple times only to see the cancer return.
The disease couldn’t take away Peoples’ positive outlook on life, but it did cut short her basketball career. She loved to play basketball, and she loved to play at the brand-new MAC.
“She only got to play there for a couple of years,” Boyle said. “If she would have played two more years she probably would have set every record for 3-point shooting.”
Peoples fought cancer with grace and dignity. The last time it came back, though, it was in her lungs. She passed away, leaving behind her parents, fiancé Stephan Burns, younger sisters Quinn and Mollie and her younger brother Danny.
“The girl was amazing,” Boyle said. “She went through a seven-year battle and she never complained. We never want the kids to forget her.”
Thanks to Mairissa’s Way, that will never happen.
“This,” Boyle said, “is perfect.”