PAPPAS: A Passion for Community

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Senator Ortt joined Mayor Art Pappas and residents Friday for a groundbreaking ceremony on the Children’s Memorial Garden at Brauer Park in North Tonawanda.

 

“Good things come to those who wait.

Better things come to those who try.

Best things come to those who believe in their efforts.”

 

By: Arthur Pappas

Mayor of North Tonawanda

A project that began three years ago is finally coming to fruition and it exceeds all expectations;proving the above quote.  When I became Mayor of North Tonawanda, my wife Linda and I immediately thought of a goal I wished to reach.  Having been both teachers in the Starpoint School District for our entire career we both had many students who passed away, some presently in our class.  To give you an example of the loss we felt, although not personally, but yet very close to our heart, I share these two stories.

It was spring vacation and I’m sitting correcting papers while on the news comes a bulletin that a boy in my class had been killed.  Ironically, at that moment I was just grading his paper.  My wife had a student in class and the school year had ended for summer vacation.  In August just before the new school year began the news reported that her student, mother, and grandmother had been killed with only the brother surviving. That boy was placed in her new class in September after losing his sister who had been in my wife’s class the year prior.

So although these children and many others we had in class were not our own, the loss was still traumatic. We, along with many people, know of a child whose life was cut too short.  With this in mind we initiated the construction of a Memorial Garden, for children no matter the age.  The Common Council approved the venture on November 12, 2015.  A small steering committee of those affected by loss was formed and plans were underway.  Over the past three years new members have reached out to join the committee and the idea took shape and blossomed.

Members with co- chairs Paula Benedyczak and Mary Beth Kupiec have been Dr. John George, Frank Brzezinski, Lynn Alexander, Chris Wackowicz, Kari Lewis, Lisa Fisher, Kori Sciandra, Pat Sullivan, Doug O”Neill, Sally Urban, Phillip Serwinouski, Dave Ziemendorf, Chelsea Spahr, and Dale Marshall.

The first topic explored was location.  Cites were explored with Brauer Park becoming the unanimous location due to the proximity to the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, nearby playground, baseball diamond and City Hall with lots of foot traffic.  In addition, the park area was underutilized and being adjacent to the WWII Memorial and 911 Twin Towers Memorial it was deemed a fitting serene area for contemplation.

With a DASNY grant form Senator Ortt and a SAM grant from Assemblyman Schimminger we were off to a solid beginning.  The Rotory Club of the Tonawandas which was disbanding at the time offered another contribution.  Since then members of our community have come forward to offer donations of work, supplies, time, labor, trees and flowers or funds.

There are so many generous people to thank for the completion of this project. Contributing volunteer businesses are  Frank Brzezinski, RLA; Mike Marino. PE and Matthew Mattison,  RLA of Nussbaumer & Clark, Inc; Sam and Josh Prezioso of NFP & Sons Inc; Frank Razzani of Razzani Construction; Bob Lamb of L & S Metals; and Michael Wachowicz of Miris Cash and Carry.  In addition, the following contractors provided their services: Ryan Henry of Henry Services Inc.; Fran Horvath of Carlton Equipment; and Jonathan Bradbury of JCS Construction.

In June of 2016 a groundbreaking took place next to City Hall in Brauer Park.  I never wanted this to become something talked about and never accomplished.  I didn’t want this to totally come from me, but involve the community also.  The preliminary design was completed by Frank Brzezinski, with a child in mind yet for an adult to reflect. Many plants are native to the region and were selected to be attractive to native pollinators such as birds, bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects.  Unfortunately Frank passed away in the winter of 2017 but his plans were followed through by Nussbaumer & Clark Inc. and the landscape plan was implemented  by Henry Services Inc.   Frank would be proud to see his ideas in place at a garden he was dedicated to designing.

A statue designed by English artist, Ros Newman, of flying doves was requested but the artist denied permission for a replica.  Approval by the English artist was granted to create a dove sculpture similar to the original but not a total replica with the artist name being recognized.

A stainless steel dove sculpture was then created by L&S Metals sitting higher in the center of a lower flower bed with an 8 foot path around it.  It is visible from all sides and lit at night.  There is a drainage system in place and pathways surrounding. Four arbor white swings face north, south, east and west. A small pine tree is planted nearby to be lite at the holidays.   Name plates with the names of children departed will be placed along the newly installed pergola’s east wall.

Many steps have been taken to bring this project to completion.  Our City Engineer, Dale Marshall, has been a driving force behind this vision.  Without his expertise a project of this magnitude never would have happened.  Our appreciation goes out to all the effort he put forth.  In addition, the City Water Dept. ran a new waterline with a yard hydrant into the park of irrigation. The DPW installed conduit for lighting and circuits, connected the drainage to the City’s  storm sewer, and installed a new sidewalk.   Special thanks to them and the Parks and Recreation Dept. for their assistance.

Community members who wish to donate or make a contribution may do so by calling the Mayor’s office at 695 8540.  A special account has been created by City Accountant, Amanda Reimer, and checks should be made out to NT City Treasurer with Children’s Memorial Walkway placed on the memo line.  4×8 name plates may be purchased for $100.00 with three lines of engraving with a possible 18 characters per line.  Information may be obtained by going on line to www.ntrtc.orgor Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/NTRemembersthechildren/.  ntchildrensgarden@gmail.comis another  form of communication.

A dedication ceremony will take place on Wednesday, October 24, 2018. Of any accomplishments as Mayor of NT, this will forever mean the most to me and my wife.  Buildings, businesses, streets etc. come and go but this will be a forever tribute to all children.  It is a memorial to all children who have struggled and fought to stay alive-those who have survived and those who perished.

The garden walkway is a heartfelt  reflection of those young lives that have passed too soon without the opportunity to reach their unique potential.  As Helen Keller so appropriately said, ”The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched-they must be felt with the heart.” And this garden is a place where all hearts will connect with love.

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