This is a story about love. Not the flowers and chocolate-covered strawberries that many will celebrate this weekend; a deeper love.
The love of a husband who loves his wife more today than when she died almost a year and a half ago, of a son who wanted to memorialize his mother in an act of love for another, and of a family who refused to let cancer rip away the love they had for their mother and wife.
Maureen Thompson died Oct. 21, 2014, after an 11-year battle with breast cancer. But before she passed, she and her son Taylor had discussed building a Habitat for Humanity home as his Eagle Scout project.
As a student at the University of Texas School of Architecture, Maureen had designed several Habitat for Humanity homes in the Montopolis neighborhoods during the mid-1990s, and Taylor liked the idea of building a similar home of his own. The mother and son, along with his father, Gary Thompson, kicked the idea around, but never finalized the details for the project.
After Maureen’s death, Taylor began working on the project in earnest. He reached out to Austin Habitat for Humanity and learned that about $85,000 would be necessary to build the home.
The fundraising can be difficult, even for some companies that volunteer to build homes, but Taylor, 17, was undaunted. Tapping into the networks of his father, a technology entrepreneur who once served as Apple’s regional manager for education for Texas, Taylor raised the money in 4½ months. He is working on raising funds for a second Habitat for Humanity home at the same price.
“This project is amazing,” said Phyllis Snodgrass, CEO of Austin Habitat for Humanity. “He is inspiring not just adults, but everyone else out here. Some of his high school friends are working on the project.”
On Jan. 23, Taylor put up the first wall on the house he will build in memory of his mother.
“I think it’s a symbol of love, of her love,” he said of the home which is in the same neighborhood as the houses the nonprofit built with his mother’s design.
But Taylor, who gave up playing varsity soccer his junior year to work on the project, said he did not want the project to be all about him. When finished, the home will house Habitat for Humanity client Annette Lopez and her 4-year-old daughter.
“It serves as a way for me to remember (my mom), but it’s not about that,” he said. “It’s about creating an actual home for the Lopez family.”
Every Saturday until May, Taylor, his father and his two younger sisters, Kyla and Katelyn, will join other Habitat for Humanity volunteers as they work to build the house.
“Our family has always been focused on what can we do to make a difference for someone else?” Gary Thompson said. “The big message is, it’s not about us. The real message is that love is more powerful than hate. Love can change things and every one of us has that.”
Gary, who is also an Eagle Scout, said his son’s project reminds him of his own. When he was Taylor’s age, Gary helped create a veteran’s memorial in Worthington, Ohio as his Eagle Scout project.
He remembers working on the memorial and thinking how some day, he’d bring his kids to see it.
But Gary sees an even more special connection in Taylor’s project.
“Thirty years from now,” he said, “(Taylor) will be able to come back here with his kids and say, ‘This is your grandmother.’”
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the city in which Gary Thompson built his Eagle Scout project.