This past Thursday and Friday were "Snow Day Give Backs" for our district. If you aren't familiar with this terminology then let me explain before I continue. Most districts in Upstate and Central New York plan for four to six additional days of school on their calendar. This cushion allows the districts to utilize snow days when snow storms or bitter temperatures force the districts to close for the day. If we don't use these extra days, our district gives two back to us and adds them to our Memorial Day weekend. It's a nice gift.
Some people take advantage of the long weekend to travel or have family over. This year, our family gathered at the intersections of State Routes 104 and 104b to spend time honoring Heidi. When a loved one dies, most are buried in a cemetery and once a year, before Memorial Day, families head to the cemetery to plant flowers and tend to their loved ones' headstones. Families of the missing don't know, yet it's just as important to show love, respect, and remembrance for our loved ones.
Many years ago, our community designed, built, and planted this garden for Heidi. Twenty-one years later she remains missing yet the support and concern is as strong today as then. Twenty years of New York weather wore on this beloved star. Thursday was spent putting my parent's winter planning into motion. Their vision is even more beautiful than they, or us, imagined. But it wouldn't have been possible without the help of our community.
The first thing that needed to be done was to build up the star's frame. Erosion and settling absorbed the bottom layer of the frame. Dad visited the New Haven Building Supply, 16 Hickory Grove Drive, in New Haven, New York for lumber, hardware, and paint for the construction portion of the process.
We made several trips between the garden and the Building Supply in the past few days. Each was met with a smile and "What do you need?" At the end of this project, rather than a bill, my parents were given a "Paid in Full" slip - the Building Supply donated everything. This is what family and community looks like. In the words of my Uncle Tom, they, "...are the best hardware store in town."
Once the frame was repaired, built, and the sign painted...it was time to remove the vine controlled weeds. The ground covering vine choked out all but a few purple irises so we started from scratch. A special thanks to Ed, Scott, and Bob for helping Dad dig out the trailer load of dirt, weeds, and vines.
Once the star was empty, it was time to fill it back in with top soil. Most came from Leon's Farm Market. In addition to the soil, we got some of the flowers for the garden here also. Once the flowers and plants were all planted, it was time for mulch. Dad filled in between the points with red mulch and then we placed black mulch along the front and the plaque.
It looked beautiful with just the new frame and top soil, the mulch made it stand out that much more. At one of our many stops, Leon talked with Dad and expressed an interest to help offset the cost from the items purchased there because it was for the Heidi Allen Remembrance Garden, "This is what community is all about. Heidi is never forgotten."
While we are extending thanks, we can't forget the staff at Valero. In 1994, this convenience store was named the D & W. Over the years there have been different gas types, owners, and managers yet one thing remains the same...their desire to keep Heidi's memory alive. While the garden is a New York State protected site (we learned this when they redid State Route 104), the lawn around it belongs to the store.
In all the years, all have dedicated time to keep the grass mowed around the garden and helped to keep the garden up. During the past few days, they allowed Dad to use their electricity so he could bring his saw up, filled buckets (and buckets) of water so we could water the newly planted flowers, and welcome us warm smiles as we bought drinks when there. There generosity and assistance to maintain the garden and help with this weekend's face lift is evidence they are more than just another gas station, they're invested in our community.
Thanks to all who waved, stopped, posted to say how nice the garden was looking, or donated time and items. This garden was birthed out of love from our beloved community and family.
Twenty-one years later, Heidi's joyful smile and personality is remembered, thanks in part to this visual reminder of the girl our town lost on April 3, 1994...may our united efforts continue to motivate, encourage, and inspire others. Thank you for remembering Heidi and all our missing.
Lisa M Buske
P.O. Box 323