By KRIS KETONEN
Monday, June 29, 2009
It wasn‘t hard to see how important Sunday‘s annual Blake Memorial Grove ceremony was to Agnes Nistico.
Nistico was there to honour the memory of her father, David Thompson Christie Smith, who passed away in December at age 92.
“It‘s a last tribute to my dad,” she said, her voice catching as tears welled up in her eyes. “It‘s emotional. It‘s a final goodbye for us.
“I think it‘s very comforting,” she said of the grove itself. “I think it‘s very thoughtful of (Blake Funeral Chapel).
“At the time of the funeral, of course everything‘s sort of a mixed array of emotions. This is a little more time to think about things.”
Nistico was one of several hundred expected to attend the ceremony behind the Slovak Legion on Atlantic Avenue.
With Nistico was her aunt Grace Shelling, Smith‘s sister, who flew in from Vancouver for the ceremony. She was unable to attend Smith‘s service, she said.
“I feel very privileged that I was able to come,” Shelling said.
“I think the tree idea is a wonderful thing,” she said. “I‘ve never heard of any others, I don‘t think.”
Shelling said she‘d like to see more efforts like the grove, where people are remembered through something “useful and something beautiful.”
“There‘s enough ugliness in the world, goodness knows,” she said. “I‘m so glad I‘m able to be here.”
The annual ceremony is the result of a partnership between Blake Funeral Chapel, the Lakehead Conservation Foundation and the Lakehead Conservation Authority, said Blake president Joseph Salini. It‘s been happening for 19 years, he said.
“We have, as of this year, engaged with them to plant more than 5,000 trees in the grove,” Salini said. “For each person whose funeral we‘ve conducted during the course of the previous calendar year, we will plant a tree.
“And there are people who can also make private donations, if they wish to, through us or the foundation.”
That, too, will result in a tree planted in someone‘s memory. The grove now stretches along both banks of the Neebing-McIntyre Floodway from Fort William Road to the shore of Lake Superior.
“We find, obviously, when they come to us in their time of need when they‘ve suffered a loss, it‘s a very traumatic time,” Salini said. “But when they come together today. . . everybody‘s here for the same reason because they‘ve all suffered a loss. But in essence we‘re all here to celebrate the planting of these trees, the legacy of the person and persons who‘ve passed on.”