AMERICAN FORK— The family of a longtime American Fork resident has chosen to use the inheritance money she left to give back to the community in the form of an art scholarship.

Edna Birk lived in American Fork before she passed away several years ago at the age of 96. Her children wanted to give back to the city that their mother loved, so after her death they began giving a small scholarship in her name for high school art students in the city.

"We thought we would prefer to do that than do another statue in the gravestone, so we figured we would make a tradition in the community," said Jack Birk, Edna's son, who now lives in Duluth, Minn. "We thought it would be a good way to keep a part of something even though we are not living there anymore. We owe American Fork a lot, though."

Jack Birk says that his mother was known by many people in the city and was liked by nearly everyone. He said that she enjoyed life in American Fork, where she ran a ladies' ready-to-wear shop for several years before retiring in 1977.

"She was widowed in 1949, and she had to make do for herself," he said. "She made her own way from then on until she passed away in American Fork."

In order to apply for the $500 scholarship a student must be a senior who is graduating from American Fork High, and the money should be used to further his or her art education.

"The visual art board has been doing this for 11 years, and it has been about nine years since the Birks decided to do this to honor their mother," said Sydney Thomas, who is the program manager over visual arts in the American Fork Arts Council.

This year, the Birk family awarded Ashley Lawrence with the 2008 Edna Birk Memorial Scholarship for her outstanding portfolio. Lawrence was one of six contestants who entered an eight-piece portfolio to be judged. Her artwork incorporated watercolor, colored pencil and mixed media.

Lawrence is graduating with a 3.85 grade point average this spring and plans to attend Utah Valley University this fall, where she hopes to study visual arts.

"I was really excited when they said that I won," said Lawrence. "I had seen who won last year's scholarship and all his work, and I always wanted to get an award like this."

Jack Birk says that his mother had no idea they would end up doing this memorial scholarship, and for that matter, neither did he and his siblings. They finally decided because they were impressed with the artworks being produced at American Fork High School.

"Even though we have all fled to other parts of the country, our family still loves American Fork," he said.


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