Continued vandalism has cost Sandidge Park in Bandera, Texas, its icon of 18 years – a lovely gazebo built by Lou and Shermalee Mack in memory of their slain daughter. After attempts to keep graffiti off the structure failed repeatedly, members of the Bandera County Optimist Club allowed the Mack family to remove the gazebo on Feb. 15 to their nearby RV park, according to the Bandera County Courier.
“It’s a sad story,” Optimist Club member Jean Heep Stevens said. “Lou and Shermalee donated that gazebo to the kids of the community out of the love for their daughter. We went twice a year to remove graffiti. We even involved kids in painting, thinking that they would discourage their friends from vandalizing it.
“But the graffiti kept coming back – some really bad words and we have young kids playing at the park. So by mutual consent, we had the Mack family remove it.”
After a week of preparation and with the assistance of two cranes rented from Kerrville, the gazebo was moved on the anniversary of Ellen Elizabeth Mack’s death to its new home at her parents’ business, Skyline Ranch RV Park, a 140-site Good Sam Park in Bandera. Their 21-year-old daughter was murdered in San Antonio on Feb. 15, 1981. Her killer was never found.
With tears in his eyes, Lou explained that the anniversary of Ellen Elizabeth’s death was still painful to the family.
“It’s tough when your child gets taken away in the prime of her life. The pain is indescribable. It makes it worse that no one was ever caught,” he offered in an interview. “It’s been so long now that we have no expectations of closure unless it is a deathbed confession. But we believe we know who did it – a hardened criminal who is long since dead.”
When the gazebo arrived back home at the ranch that the Mack family purchased in 1978, it was given a place of honor among historic live oak trees overlooking what will soon become a catch and release catfish pond. Axis and whitetail deer and wild turkeys frequent the location.
The gazebo is under renovation. “It will be like new when we finish it,” Mack explained.
Two large rocks encroach on a spreading live oak tree near the gazebo’s new home. Mack believes their presence in the otherwise rock-free area identifies them as the tombstones of two unknown individuals, ironically making them as mysterious as his daughter’s death.
Lou and Shermalee are the parents of eight children. They live in places as far flung as New York and Virginia, yet they still come to help at Skyline RV when possible.
Mack holds his longtime friend Bob Shaw of Langtry responsible for his transition from traditional ranching to RV ranching.
“Bob and his wife and my wife’s parents came here so frequently in their recreational vehicles that I put spaces in for them. After that, the RV park just sort of grew.”
After returning home to what is now a 140-space RV park, the gazebo built to honor a daughter who died much too young will now offer respite for countless visitors – and remain free from defacement.