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Silver Ridges favorite pets stretch their fins in new digs
Silver Ridge Elementary School has always had an aquarium. When the school first opened in 1990, it came with a 15-gallon tank. Its origin remains a mystery even to some of the teachers who were around since the very first day of school.
At this school years first day, an aquarium 10 times larger welcomed students, staff and visitors. This one is less of a mystery. It was decommissioned from its decorative service at a bank and donated by an anonymous kindergarten parent last spring.
The generous gesture is no surprise as the original aquarium was a big hit.
It was really a draw for the kids, said first and second grade teacher Kathi White. The fish grew and grew because they were so happy.
But they needed more than just the students love and the lobby staffs attention to thrive.
Originally, it was by guess and by golly when it got cleaned, White said about the small aquarium.
Thats when Steve Conolly came to the rescue.
About two years ago he refurbished the old aquarium and volunteered to take care of it. He says his Bremerton-based Steves Aquarium Service has several clients just down the road from Silver Ridge, so he started dropping by a few times a month to check on the tanks single inhabitant at the time a large bright orange goldfish dubbed Pumpkin by one of the students.
When the 150-gallon tank was donated, the Associated Student Body of Silver Ridge asked Conolly how much it would cost to set it up.
Before he gave them an estimate, though, tragedy struck. Second-grader Mercadez Hills-Krenzelok and her 5-year-old sister Jessica died in a fire in their home at the end of May 2005.
The younger girl was always fascinated by the aquarium, said Silver Ridge Principal Steve Anderson.
Both girls loved watching the fish, said White, who was Mercadezs teacher.
So the newly-donated aquarium became the natural fit to serve as a token to remember the Krenzeloks by.
Conollys niece also was in Whites class at the time and told her uncle the school planned to dedicate the aquarium to her classmate and her sister.
When I found out it was being memorialized, I said Im not going to charge (the school), Conolly said.
He set up the tank for free, complete with a green plaque dedicating it to the memory of the two girls, and had it ready by the first day of school.
Conolly never met Mercadez and Jessicas family, but he knew he would at least help the school cope with the loss.
I think that the kids need to remember their classmate, he said.
Now he comes by every few weeks to restock the fish food out of his own supply and do whatever other upkeep is necessary.
Im charging them a pittance of $25 a month, he said.
That was because of Andersons insistence that the ASB students sign a contract with Conolly and thus invest in the new aquarium.
It is a little bit more work than it was before, Conolly said, but I enjoy coming out here.
Pumpkin also is enjoying the larger swimming space.
The old aquarium was almost too small for Pumpkin alone, but when Anderson brought a few of his own goldfish to keep it company, Conolly scolded him. He quarantined the three newcomers to make sure they were healthy before joining Pumpkin.
I chewed him out about it, he said laughing about the principals well-intentioned contribution to the small aquarium. I said If you want me to take care of this tank ... dont do that no more.
In the end, however, Conolly himself ended up adding a few more goldfish to Pumpkin and friends new home.
The kids are into it which is kind of cool, Conolly said.
He even receives Christmas cards from the students made of construction paper cut out in the shape of a fish and