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Road signs tell stories of Missouri residents

Road signs tell stories of Missouri residents

December 23rd, 2018 by Danisha Hogue in Local News

Sally Ince/ News Tribune Minday Bess stands outside Tuesday December 18, 2018 at the Missouri Department of Transportation. Bess has been employed at MoDOT since 2009 and works with the drunk driving, heroes way, memorial and adopt a highway applications.

Across the state, motorists pass hundreds of road signs. Some give direction; others pay respect to citizens' contributions or to those whose lives were tragically lost.

Mindy Bess handles the latter.

She is the administrator for the memorial designation program at the Missouri Department of Transportation.

The four programs for memorial signage are: Memorial Highway and Bridge, Heroes Way designation, Drunk Driving Victim/David's Law and Adopt-A-Highway.

Each program is different and allows a marker to be placed along the highway on a bridge or an interchange. Signs include the names of volunteers or organizations who beautify land or Missourians who have been killed by tragedy or who are being honored for their contributions.

"(These) programs allow Americans to see who that person is," Bess said.

Working with the sensitive subject of a deceased family member takes a specific type of communication.

"I think the one thing that I learned the most coming into this position is what you have to do; you have to have compassion for others," she said.

Bess said she is passionate about helping families honor their loved ones. She has been program administrator since 2009.

"For every memorial there is, there's a story behind it," Bess said.

One of the most interesting parts of her job is getting to know the deceased through the family members. This is also her favorite part, which culminates when the family sees a sign for the first time.

When a family sees the sign, she said, it's much different experience than what she's had with them leading up to that point. From the application process, Bess works one on one with the clients, but the signs are a team effort.

She looks up areas where they want the signs placed and unfortunately cannot always guarantee their request will be granted.

"Having to tell the family 'we would love to do that for you but we can't, it's already dedicated' that's the biggest challenge," Bess said.

Before working as the program administrator, she worked in MoDOT's system management division. Since switching to her current position, life has become more precious to her, she said.

"I've seen a lot of tragedy. I've heard about a lot of tragedy. Every day is a gift and don't take it for granted," she said.