Advocacy center in Northampton unveils new glass window to mark deaths of mother-son 26 years ago

  • Yoko Kato, right, speaks during the dedication of a fused glass piece in remembrance of her daughter, Sherry Morton, and her grandson, Cedric, by artist Lynn Latimer, Friday, at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Northampton. Morton and her son were the victims of domestic violence and died on this day, 26 years ago. Beside her are, from left, Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, CAC board member Sally Griggs, CAC executive director Susan Loehn and retired Rev. Peter Ives. Below, Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, left, talks with artist Lynn Latimer. STAFF PHOTOS/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, left, talks with artist Lynn Latimer, whose fused glass piece in remembrance of Sherry Morton and her son, Cedric, hangs on a wall behind them, after a ceremony dedicating the piece , Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 at the Children's Advocacy Center in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A fused glass piece by artist Lynn Latimer in remembrance of Sherry Morton and her son, Cedric, hangs on a wall at the Children's Advocacy Center in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/11/2019 11:26:18 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Over two decades ago, the murders of 23-year-old Sherry Morton and her 18-month-old son Cedric devastated and shocked the community.

On Friday, the 26th anniversary of the murders, family and supporters gathered at the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) for Hampshire County in Northampton to remember the two lives tragically lost and continue the fight against domestic violence as a new fused glass window was unveiled at the center.

“It’s been 26 years, but it seems like it happened yesterday,” said Yoko Kato, Morton’s mother and Cedric’s grandmother, to the crowd that had gathered in the Center. “But everyone like you people help me to heal and go on with my life.”

In the two-plus decades following the loss of her daughter and grandson, Kato, who is on CAC’s board of directors, has become an internationally recognized advocate for victims of domestic violence.

Susan Loehn, CAC’s executive director, recalled that in the aftermath of the murders, people were “shocked anything like this could happen in Northampton.”

But that day in 1993 when Morton and her son were murdered by Cedric’s father, Sean Seabrooks, showed that it could happen anywhere. Now, Yoko and the CAC work to prevent domestic violence and child abuse from happening to anyone else.

“That really was one of the reasons we came together as a community… and really try to prevent child abuse,” Loehm said. “Our lofty goal is to end it.”

The Northampton CAC now sees over 100 children each year, most of whom are under 12 years old.

Rather than going to the hospital or police for interviews and medical exams, children can come to the center after disclosing abuse, which Loehm said provides a setting that is often more comfortable for children.

The fused glass window panel, which displays a photo of Morton and Cedric over a design featuring birds and branches, was created by artist Lynn Latimer of Haydenville and is now the first thing that children and their families will see upon entering the center.

“I thought that it would be good to have something that would be peaceful but comfortable, but also engaging and optimistic,” Latimer said of the design, which she worked on throughout the summer.

While the installation evokes a tragedy, Loehm hopes that it will also inspire professionals in their fight against child abuse.

“We wanted to honor (Kato’s) family,” Loehm said, “but also I see it as the professionals who walk into this place, they’re going to be sad, but I hope it will also rededicate them to their work.”

Kato, who Latimer called a “mover and shaker” and “force of nature” in the fight against domestic violence, said that before 2002, Japan didn’t have a term for domestic violence.

In response, Kato reached out to a Japanese television station and asked them to film a documentary on domestic violence and how to help victims. Following the release of the documentary and further efforts from Kato, she said that “now everyone in Japan knows what domestic violence is.”

In 2002, Kato received an award from the Japanese government in recognition of her work on behalf of victims of domestic violence. The Japanese Embassy now reaches out to Kato for assistance, as do domestic violence victims from around the country.

Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, who was in attendance Friday, commended Kato for bringing “love and hope” to victims of domestic violence.

“It’s so beautiful that we’re remembering Cedric and Sherry today, and we’ll remember them always,” Sullivan said.

When at the cemetery visiting the daughter and grandson who were taken from her, Kato tells Morton about her continued presence in the community.

“I went to the cemetery today and told her that her name is not forgotten,” Kato said. “People still remember her and Cedric.”

Kato said she struggles with the knowledge that Morton and Cedric are gone while Seabrooks, who was convicted on two counts of first degree murder and is currently serving a lifetime sentence in prison, is still living.

“Time brings healing, but not having (Morton and Cedric) here hurts me,” she said.

But through her advocacy, Kato wants to lead a life that is meaningful to Morton and Cedric. “It’s been 26 years, but I’m still here,” Kato said. “I can’t wait to be with them. But when I see them again, I want them to be proud of me.”

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

© 2019 Daily Hampshire Gazette
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy