On Saturday afternoon children dashed back and forth from the beach to the base of the Edgartown lighthouse, bringing handfuls of slipper shells to decorate the cobblestones of the Children’s Memorial. Tiny pumpkins, baskets of flowers and bouquets also adorned many of the stones, which honor 733 young lives lost.
“They are part of us all here today, and part of the Vineyard,” Martha’s Vineyard Museum director Phil Wallis told a group of more than 100 people who had gathered for the 15th annual Ceremony of Remembrance at the Children’s Memorial.
There are now more than seven times as many engraved cobblestones at the lighthouse as there were when the memorial was first dedicated in 2001.
One of the newest stones, at the very front of the memorial, honors Mateo Louis Almeida, whose life ended before he was born. Mateo’s mother, Sara Almeida of Peabody, said she lost her baby last November after five months of pregnancy, and learned of the Children’s Memorial from a co-worker who had also lost a child.
“It’s very emotional, but I’m glad to have something,” said Ms. Almeida, who attended the ceremony with her mother, Roni Burgin, also of Peabody. Mateo had two older siblings, 4 and 9 years old, who may come with their mother to a future Ceremony of Remembrance; but for the first one, Ms. Almeida said, “I wasn’t sure how it would feel.”
Two of the first 100 stones, placed in 2001, bear the names of teenagers Ricky Harrington, whose father Rick was a prime mover in creating the memorial, and Niko Trask, whose mother Nancy Highet (now Vietor) also played a role in establishing the lighthouse as a place of remembrance. Family members of both boys, who died in separate accidents, were in the group Saturday afternoon, with Mr. Harrington briefly addressing the audience at the end of the ceremony
“I’m a lucky man to be standing here today with so much love and support,” he told the crowd. “I hope to see you here again next year.”
Lighthouse keeper Jack Burton also spoke, delivering a benediction that concluded, “Here where the sky and sea and sand come together, let us be thankful for the time we had together and continue to have in our memories and hearts.”
Musicians Carol Loud, Martha Hudson and Pam Butterick performed devotional music including Thomas Dorsey’s Precious Lord, Take My Hand and Natalie Sleeth’s Hymn of Promise, which left many in the crowd wiping their eyes.
According to Betsey Mayhew of the museum’s Children’s Memorial Committee, volunteers are needed to help care for the site. Those who wish to assist may contact Ms. Mayhew at 508-627-4441, extension 112.