ST. GEORGE — American flags fluttered in a light breeze as children sang to honor one of Mountain View Montessori School staff members in a remembrance ceremony on Thursday.

Mountain View Montessori School claps for their former custodian Steven Ricks during a ceremony to honor him, Washington, Utah, Dec. 7, 2023 | Photo by Stephanie DeGraw, St. George News

A unique sandstone rock and a tree were placed on the school grounds to honor their custodian, Steven Jeffry Ricks. Ricks was 36 when he passed away unexpectedly on November 12. School officials thanked Kenworthy Signs for donating the engraved rock.

Mariah Heaton, the school’s special education director, told St. George News Ricks was known as “Mr. Steven” to the students. He had a warm personality and worked at the school for four years. His extended family attended the event.

“He was a beautiful soul,” Mariah Heaton, the school’s special education director, told St. George News. “We are just a small school, so we’re all connected as a community and as a family here. He passed away last week and as a school and a community, we wanted to remember him and his great legacy and his kindness and dedication to our school and his hard work.”

Heaton explained a magnolia tree was planted in Ricks’ honor since it is an evergreen. The plant will remain green all year and always bloom.

“That is a great reminder of staying positive and always blooming and sharing your love with others,” Heaton said. “We have created a Steven Ricks award that a student in each class will receive every month. It will be awarded to the hardworking students who show kindness and love to their classmates, never complaining, not giving up and working hard.”

The event co-hosts, Follow the Flag Southern Utah Chapter, brought many flags to decorate the school grounds. They were the group that recently flew a large American flag on Veterans Day in Snow Canyon.

The family of Steven Ricks enjoys the program in his honor at the Mountain View Montessori School, Washington, Utah, Dec. 7, 2023 | Photo by Stephanie DeGraw, St. George News

“Not only do we fly big flags, but our mission statement is about honor, healing and inspiring. Part of that healing mission is when tragedy strikes in our community, we want to get behind some of these things,” Brian Davis of Follow the Flag said. “We reached out to the family and let them know that we are here to unite the community and make sure that they know we’re here to honor and respect them as well.”

Brandon Griffiths, also of Follow the Flag, said they will continue to support Southern Utah residents.

“We’re honored to be here to honor him in the legacy that Steven Ricks left,” Griffiths said. “Part of our mission is to heal and be able to show up to events like this and show our love and support to our community members and share in their legacy.”

Steven had a seizure disorder that was ultimately too much for his body to handle, according to an email sent to St. George News by school officials.

“Despite his limitations, he was a dedicated and loyal friend, family member and employee,” the email stated. “He rarely missed a day from work due to his illness and became a favorite of the staff and students at Mountain View Montessori.”

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