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Love's lacrosse number is retired by University of Virginia

By Jean Marbella
Sunday, March 6, 2011; 10:27 PM

CHARLOTTESVILLE - On the field of her dreams, Yeardley Love will remain number one forever. The Cockeysville, Md., native's uniform number was retired Sunday at the University of Virginia, where teammates, relatives, friends and fans gathered in the rain to present her mother and sister with a commemorative jersey and to raise a flag bearing her name and number, one, at her beloved lacrosse field.

Love was killed 10 months ago in a crime that still resonates on the campus, where the 22-year-old had fulfilled her childhood dream of playing for the perennial lacrosse powerhouse. Less than two weeks before she was to graduate, she was found dead in her apartment, leading to the arrest of her ex-boyfriend and fellow lacrosse player, George Huguely, who remains jailed on murder charges.

But before Sunday's women's lacrosse game at Klockner Stadium, it was Love's life that school athletic officials honored by retiring the number one that she wore and giving her mother, Sharon, and sister Lexie flowers, hugs and a framed jersey as fans gathered for the game against Penn State stood and applauded.

For Sharon Love, who had cheered from the sidelines and stands of numerous lacrosse fields since her daughter took up the sport as a 5-year-old, returning to the U-Va. stadium brought a mix of emotions.

"It's bittersweet," Love said in an interview Saturday.

Love said she and her elder daughter have been bolstered through the difficult months by the outpouring of support for the foundation her family has started and named after Yeardley. Called the One Love Foundation, it has raised money for a new lacrosse field at Notre Dame Preparatory School as well as future scholarships and projects that will promote community service.

"Lexie and I have been overwhelmed by people's kindness and generosity," Love said. "People have been so kind, it's really helped us so much. It just pulls you on."

Mother and daughter watched from the center of the field as five former players, seniors with Yeardley Love last year, hoisted a banner bearing her name and number at the center of the stadium's flag court. It will fly at every U-Va. women's lacrosse home game.

"She was so much more than lacrosse, but it's hard not to come back to Charlottesville and see our coach and the other players without thinking of Yeardley," said Brittany Kalkstein, one of the Class of 2010 players.

'An honor for her'

The retirement of Love's number was the latest in a series of posthumous honors that the family has received in her name, including the diploma that her cousin Lawren McChesney accepted on her behalf at U-Va.'s commencement ceremony and the Betty and Money Yates award, given by the school to the female lacrosse player who best exemplifies dedication and leadership to the team. Yeardley had been selected for the award but died before receiving it, her mother said she was told.

"I'm sure she knows about it now," Sharon Love said. "It was an honor for her, and, of course, I feel as a mother she deserves it."

Love teaches and interprets for hearing-impaired children in the Baltimore public school system. Her family members say that getting the One Love Foundation off the ground has helped them channel at least some of their grief during the past months as the criminal case against Huguely has made its way through the courts. He faces a variety of charges, including murder and burglary, in connection with her May 3 death. He told police that he had shaken her during a fight in her apartment, causing her head to bang against the wall. He faces a preliminary hearing April 11.

"In our hearts, we know this is what Yeardley would want us to focus on," said Debbie McChesney, Sharon Love's sister. "This would make her happy. We are spending our time looking forward to the future and trying to bring some good out of this."

The foundation is sponsoring its next "Yards for Yeardley" fundraiser, a running event, April 9 in Charlottesville after a previous one in Richmond generated $60,000, McChesney said.

Such events helped the foundation and Notre Dame Prep raise funds that were matched by a $500,000 donation by the Charles T. Bauer Foundation that will be used to build a turf field at the school and endow a scholarship in Yeardley Love's name.

The foundation also hopes to create its own version of U-Va.'s Yates award, asking the ACC women's lacrosse teams to each nominate a player and then selecting one to honor. In addition, it will offer college scholarships to students, initially in Baltimore, who keep up their grades and do volunteer work with senior citizens in their neighborhoods.

"Yeardley always had a soft spot for the elderly, so we've tried to incorporate that," Love said. "I remember one of the last times she was home from school, an elderly man, I don't know if he lost control of his car, but it ran off the road, and she stopped and called for an ambulance and sat with him.

"He wanted to go home. He was worried about his wife and a meal she made getting cold, but [Yeardley] stayed with him until the ambulance came and made sure he was okay," she said. "She was just like that."

Love said Yeardley also enjoyed working with children. As a student at Notre Dame Prep, she worked with the school's Camp Umoja in the summer, which offers learning activities, sports and swimming for underprivileged children from Baltimore, some of whom she stayed in touch with over the years. She also learned a bit of sign language to help her mother during summertime extended school year classes.

"Yeardley was always so kind to everyone. We wanted to set up something that would complement her life," Love said. "We hope it will honor Yeardley and mirror her."

'Extended family'

Yeardley Love's death has inspired changes at U-Va. and beyond. A little more than a week ago, Virginia legislators expanded the law on protective orders to allow those in dating relationships to seek them. Previously, protective orders could be issued only to family members - such as a wife against a husband - or those who could prove they were being stalked. After her slaying, reports emerged of previous physical altercations between Huguely and Love.

The university tightened its requirement that students notify the school of previous arrests or convictions. Huguely had not disclosed a 2008 arrest for public intoxication in Lexington, Va., during which he hurled vulgarities at a police officer, who then used her Taser to subdue him.

Talking about her loss remains difficult for Sharon Love, who prefers to instead highlight her daughter's life. Yeardley thought that after graduating from U-Va., where she majored in political science, she might eventually go to law school, Sharon Love said.

For now, Love is focused on the One Love Foundation, taking comfort when she sees people, many she doesn't know, wearing T-shirts from one of the group's events.

"When you join One Love, we really think it's like we're a great extended family now," she said. "A lot of us don't know each other . . . but we're a team."

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