By Patty Booth O’Neill – Photos by OceanportPhotos.com
West Long Branch – A Butterfly Garden and Memorial was created at Frank Antonides School in WLB in honor of Jack DuBois and Aleka Damiano. The garden was a seven-month labor of love, organized by their close friend Felicia Aschettino. Jack and Aleka were 2014 graduates from Frank Antonides.
Jack passed away suddenly from diabetes complications when home for Easter break. Aleka passed away while a senior at Shore Regional High School from a virus. Family and friends of the two young West Long Branch residents attended the memorial, very moved by the work, support and memories.
“Over 100 people and families donated to produce the memorial site in front of us today,” Aschettino said, speaking about how the town and businesses came together to make the project possible. She quoted a line from their 8th grade graduation by the band Green Day. “The loss of Jack and Aleka was ‘something unpredictable’ and I know that we all are so thankful to have taken ‘the photographs and still frames in our minds.” The both of them will be with us forever, Felicia said.
Felicia spoke to the DuBois and Damaino families saying, “None of us can imagine the pain and heartache you must feel every day.” She said that Aleka and Jack will always be remembered as kind, courageous and strong individuals, who will forever remembered in all of our hearts.
Special thanks went out to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Egan, WLB BOE, Jason and Aramark, Pat Joyce of Shore View Landscapes, Buddy Damiano, Gary from Ace Hardware, Roy Walls, Third and Lennox, L&L Paving, Matthew O’Donnell and Meaghan Hellmers,. “I would also like to thank my parents, sister and grandparents for the countless hours they spent to help bring this area to life,” Aschettino said.
The garden is a new addition to the front lawn of Frank Antonides School, that has a welcoming bench for visitors to relax and enjoy. It has two trees, one for Aleka and one for Jack, butterfly plants, flowers and a small arch bridge spanning the center.
A ribbon was cut officially opening the garden by Jack’s mom Kristin and Aleka’s mom Frannie. To end the ceremony Jacks sister Kelly and Aleka’s sister Téa freed a box of beautiful monarch butterflies.