Thursday, September 16, 2021

A Time to Remember

How do you remember those you love that have passed away? Any time we lose someone we love there is a hurt that never heals. When we lose children, that loss seems unbearable. How do you survive the loss of a child? I’ve listened to parents say that a child should never die before a parent, it’s just not right. Unfortunately, this happens all too often. Whether it’s from disease or an accident, the hurt never leaves us.

My youngest brother, David, passed away after a tragic car accident when he was only 18 years old. This was in the summer between his junior and senior year of high school. Another student, also died tragically that summer. After my brother’s funeral my father had a memorial made that was placed in a peaceful spot near the home we grew up in. Over 40 years later my parents were downsizing and moving to a new home. The question was raised about what to do with David’s memorial.

My father remembered that several years ago, while attending a concert at Riverhead High School in Riverhead, New York,

we were early and we had to wait outside the back of the high school for the doors to open. As we walked around that night we noticed memorials in the gardens near the entrance to the auditorium.

Was this area a possibility for my brother’s memorial? After contacting the High School Principal, Sean O’Hara, we found out that yes, this was definitely a possibility. I worked with Mr. O’Hara and Madlyn Davis to set things up. My brother Michael, my father Olin and step-mother Beverly and I took the memorial to the High School in June. They showed us the spot available for David’s Memorial. The custodial staff would place the memorial and let us know when completed. The memorial is now in place with special thanks to Mr. O’Hara, Madlyn Davis and the custodial staff at Riverhead High School.

David James Warner (1960-1979)

My son graduated from this high school and I told him what we were planning. He remembered a fellow classmate that had died while he was in high school also. This made me curious about the other stones I had seen in the memorial garden. Do people know that this garden is there? Do they remember the other students as they walk into the back entrance of the high school? How did this garden come to be? I wanted to remember all the students who have memorials in the garden, as well as my brother.

Ever the genealogist and researcher I began to learn about the garden. Here is what I learned from the following stones:

Vincent “Vinny” Nasta (1961-2008)

I searched for articles and learned on Riverhead Local “Vinny’s Garden” was a memorial to beloved Art teacher Vincent “Vinny” Nasta who perished tragically from a plane crash in 2008. Riverhead Local reported, “Students and teachers also set up a memorial garden in the courtyard at the high school, outside Nasta’s classroom.”  

Other parts of the garden, I am told, started long before Mr. Nasta’s untimely death.

The following are the memorials for students and what I was able to learn about them:

Anthony Matuza

Terrence Sumpter (1978-1996) age 18

Everett “E-Dubb” Wilson (1987-2005) age 17

Joseph “Joey” Chew (1988-2006) age 18

Ryan Hautsch (1989-2007) age 17

Danielle “Danie” G. Lawrence (1998-2015) age 17

Tristin Q. Krueger

Brieanne Reichel (1986-2002) age 16

Michael P. Smith (1962-1979) age 17

My thanks to the custodial staff for placing my brother’s memorial in the garden and maintaining the area. Thank-you to everyone reading this for taking time to remember all the lives who were cut tragically short. If you are in the area, perhaps, you can also take a moment to walk through this special garden at Riverhead High School and remember…

If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.

Enjoy the journey,

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