Covid Garden Memorial
Updated: May 14
By Jennifer Ersalesi
After so many lives were lost during the pandemic, Rosanna Pizza and Erika Twist wanted to create a memorial area. After their original plans did not work out, Tina Boscarino, a retired Art Therapist, suggested creating a Covid memorial at the Rutherford Community Garden. Garden Club President, Nicole Miller, Tina, and the Rutherford Green Team met together to determine the best area for the memorial. They agreed upon the area surrounding the birdbath, which is set back and less likely to be disturbed. This is Rutherford spoke with Tina about the Covid Memorial Garden and how this project was designed and created.
TIR: As an Art Therapist you have learned first-hand how art can be part of the healing process. Tell us more about the importance of this memorial garden.
Tina Boscarino: As an Art Therapist who has been involved in bereavement work since 9/11, I know personally and professionally how healing the making of memorial art can be. The administrators of the Rutherford COVID Facebook page, Erika Twist and Rosanna Pizza wanted to find a place in town where community members could place memorial stones and/or shells for those who lost their lives to COVID and related illnesses, as has been happening in other towns not only in our country but globally. It was in the planning process at the Congregational Church in town, but now that the church is sold, that is not an option.
TIR: You have been pivotal in setting up the Covid memorial garden and assisting with families’ artistic expressions of their grief. How have you been able to help?
TB: As someone with expertise in the making of memorial art, I have materials and will also make myself available to facilitate families who want help decorating a stone or shell to place. I will also facilitate getting a small sign made, as requested by the Green Team.
TIR: Who are some of the other people who have assisted with this project?
TB: I am a member of the Rutherford Garden Club. Garden club members, including myself, cleared the leaves and poison ivy and set up a border around the area with stones. Yellow shells (the color associated with COVID, painted by Rosanna Pizza’s eleven-year-old niece, Angelina Liller) are placed around the base of the birdbath. Both the Green Team and Garden Club administrators are in support of this project. Councilwoman Maria Begg-Roberson, helped us get final approval from Mayor and Council. I know the town eventually plans a COVID-19 memorial at some point for residents who died, but this area will be for a broader personal expression of loss - many of us have lost loved ones who do not live in town, myself included.
TIR: There is a particular story that you wanted to share regarding the memorial garden.
TB: I want to share with you one last thing. Last weekend when I was working at the Community Garden with President Nicole Miller, an older couple stopped by with their dog. Their family member and community gardener, Tim Cole, had planted a now large Rose of Sharon tree where Nicole was creating a new flower bed. She had just pulled out a seedling of the same to transplant elsewhere. Tim died of COVID, and they had brought a stone with his name on it to place by the tree. Nicole gave them the seedling to plant in their yard. You might think this was a coincidence, but in my recent work in hospice we would call this a sign - and I have experienced many. It was a magical moment and one that other families may experience when they place their stone or shell in the lovely nearby special place.