By Justin Boron
Between flimsy walls covered in the 100-year-old dirt of a McDonough loft, loving memories mix with clay to re-create a life lost in tragedy.
A winter draft blusters through the cracks in the walls as sculptor Andy Davis forms the face of Melanie Parker, a 12-year-old child who died in a car accident in 1992.
Close by is a photo album full of her pictures that Davis looks at to capture her humanity.
He said he is bringing her back to life in the clay.
Melanie's life ended when she was on the way back from a movie in Conyers. The car she was riding in with her sister, Stephanie, tumbled at least once before it crushed her skull.
Stephanie survived. But Melanie lived on only in her father's wallet.
Jim Parker, 55, who walks a postal route in McDonough Square, kept a pocket-size image of his youngest daughter with him after the accident.
Years and many walks around the Square later, the tiny image, frayed at the corners, sent a spark through Davis while he renovated his downtown studio.
"It was one of those days when you're thinking about the past and tomorrow, and you're not really thinking about the now," he said.
On Dec. 7, Melanie's birthday, Parker and Davis said they began talking on the street.
"We never really had spoken before, but we got into a conversation," Davis said.
As the two conversed about the sculptor's plans for the studio, it became clear that Parker was after a sculpture of his lost daughter, Davis said.
Parker said he wanted to preserve her memory. Pictures had done the job so far, but he said he wanted something more.
"It's something you can touch," Parker said. "A picture you can't touch... this is going to mean a lot more."
But Parker did not think he could afford Davis' usual commission.
So Davis said he would find a way to get it done for her.
Taking the wallet sized photograph, he said he went to the second story of his studio and stared into Melanie's eyes.
Then, the church bells at the First United Methodist Church rang.
"You can imagine how upsetting it was for me, to go through this and bring her back to life in clay," he said.
Two weeks later, Melanie's face is emerging from the brown clay on the second story of Davis' studio.
"It's almost like she is part of his family," Parker said.
Keeping with an artist's integrity, Davis said Melanie's family will not see the sculpture until it is complete, until she is totally brought back to life.
But Parker said he is anxious in wait.
"I can't tell you how much I appreciate what he is doing," Davis said.
While Davis continues to resurrect Melanie in clay, he is molding another memory for his neighbor Joel Maddox, 48, who owns Ward Drug Co. on the Square.
Maddox said he had wanted an something to memorialize his three children Katie, 8, Kipp, 8, and William, 12.
"The kids are excited about it," he said.