ROSCOE, Ill. (WTVO) — Ashley Hardin was murdered last July, and her body was found behind EcoLab in Roscoe. Now, the business is working to honor her memory.
The 38-year-old was kidnapped and murdered by Rayshawn Smith on July 23rd, 2022. Her body was found behind EcoLab, at 5151 East Rockton Road, where Smith worked.
“When the tragedy occurred, we were all shocked and deeply saddened, and didn’t know how to react, how to respond,” said plant manager Tom Ramsden.
Ramsden said his employees wanted to find a positive way to honor Hardin, so the company will install a commemorative bench.
“Once we got about half the funding secured, I reached out to the company and said, ‘hey, can you help?’ And the company agreed to fund the whole bench. And so, we took the money that we raised and we actually used it to supply both birthday and Christmas gifts to Ashley’s three minor children,” Ramsden said.
The new bench will include a plaque dedicated to Hardin, featuring a quote from her: “Continue smiling, growing, loving, and showing respect.”
Ramsden said the company wants the bench to serve as a reminder of who Hardin was, and to keep her memory alive.
“We believe it is very meaningful to them, to have a peaceful place, that can be the focal point of remembrances and memorial for her,” he said. “We want the message that she brought hope and kindness and love to the world.”
The bench was placed at Stone Bridge Trail, just south of Rockton Road. Ramsden said the location was chosen because there it can be used by both employees and the public.
“When they see the bench, when they sit on the bench, hopefully, they reflect on that, that there was a beautiful life lost,” Ramsden said. “But it’s not the end.”
Authorities said Smith died in prison on Christmas Day, after being sentenced to life for Hardin’s murder.
EcoLab is headquartered in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and develops water treatment systems.