Niagara Gazette

June 24, 2013

Falls students, former staffer fulfilling dream of Jessica Stone, who died March 17

Staff Reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Jessica Stone loved flowers and always wanted her own garden. Her wish, though too late for her to see with her own eyes, is coming true at Niagara Falls High School.

Stone, a 14-year-old freshman at the school this year, passed away after battling Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, on March 17.

Though she was never able to have the garden she always wanted to plant and nurture, many of her fellow students have been persistent in asking what they can do to honor and remember her.

So some of the high school’s staff got to work to make it happen. Jill Wagner, Christine Barstys and Erin Schwenkbeck, along with retired district administrator Stan Zimmerman, quickly planned with the help of student volunteers a memorial garden for the student.

“Jessica has touched many hearts,” Wagner said in a press release. “With this garden, she will continue to blossom as a sign that one day there will be a cure for cancer.”

Students assisting with the memorial garden include R.J. Tantillo, Cassandra LaBelle, Nina Bianco, Emily Corieri, Rebecca Silwowski and Mike Bartlett.

Intended to be a place for students, faculty and the community to remember Jessica, it is expected to serve as a blooming reminder of how valuable life is.

With the garden planned, all that remains is filling it. Doing so came from outside help, people who heard about the endeavor and wanted to make an impact.

Jennifer Grier and Natalie Cook of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Creating Healthy Places in Niagara County program have donated three, eight-foot-long cedar boxes for the garden. And Barry Virgilio, commissioner of the Niagara state parks, has donated 800 tulips to be planted in the fall.

Anonymous flower donations, along with public ones, have also been made and are welcomed. Plants can be dropped off at the high school, 4455 Porter Road.

Paying for the garden has also been taken care of, thanks to a grant from the state department of health. Future development of the garden could include a plaque, benches and more flowers as organizers hope to expand their remembrance of a student whose life ended before anyone’s should.