The Washington City Council gave a thumbs up to the proposed Angel of Hope memorial garden during its meeting Monday night.
The garden, which will honor children who have passed away and serve as a symbol of hope for parents, will be built near the Jaycees All-Abilities playground in a wooded area east of the Koh mueller farmhouse. A similar garden is in Blanchette Park in St. Charles.
Mayor Sandy Lucy and several council members lauded the project, saying it will be a great addition to the park system.
The Washington Park Board agreed to move forward with the project earlier this month. The garden is proposed to be completely privately funded.
“This would just be a good place within our parks system where parents can sit and reflect,” said Brian Boehmer, assistant city administrator. “This would be a good asset for our parks.”
Betty Werner, who lost her son Todd in a vehicle accident 18 years ago, and is serving on the Angel of Hope committee, addressed the council Monday night.
Werner said the garden would provide a private place for families and friends to remember their loved ones. She said most cemeteries in the area are very public and some people may not feel comfortable spending time there.
“If I want to go and spend time with Todd and talk with him about something, I have to do that in plain sight around everyone else,” she said.
Werner said that since the first article was published in The Missourian, she has received many phone calls of support from people in the community, and the surrounding areas as well.
At first, Werner said she thought the memorial garden might be too close in proximity to the all-abilities playground, which is currently under construction. But the more she thought about it, she liked the location because she would be able to hear the laughter of children near by.
“It’s a bittersweet kind of a feeling . . . but I’m so joyful that those kids are going to be able to enjoy that park and I’m going to have my little piece of it,” she said. “I’m asking from the very heart and soul of my being that we move forward with this.”
Boehmer also asked that patrons who want to be able to make a tax-deductible donation be able to do so through Patrons of the Park, a newly formed 501(c)(3).
About the Garden
The statue to be purchased is an exact replica of the original Angel of Hope at Salt Lake City, Utah, which was inspired by the book, “The Christmas Box,” by author Richard Paul Evans.
A concept rendering of the garden was shown to the council. It was prepared, at no charge, by Horn Architects in Washington. It features a 28-square-foot patio with engraved brick pavers and four benches. A wrought iron decorative fence runs along the southwest side of the garden, behind the angel statue.
A 5-foot-wide walking path would lead up to the memorial with space for more engraved bricks.
The bronze angel is 4 feet, 3 inches tall and has a wingspan of 5 feet, 2 inches. The total cost for the angel is $14,500 and a base is approximately $10,200, Boehmer told the council.
The statue would be ordered from Richard Paul Evans Inc. and The Christmas Box House International, which receives no profits from the orders. It takes about three months to receive the angel after it’s ordered.
Bricks with names of the children or messages inscribed will be sold and placed around the monument. The bricks will cost between $100 and $125.
Plain brick pavers would be replaced with engraved bricks as they are purchased. Any additional money raised would be used to maintain the monument and surrounding area.
Both Werner and Boehmer said they didn’t think it would be too difficult to raise the money for the project.
Council Weighs In
Mayor Sandy Lucy called the project a “beautiful idea” and Councilman Steve Sullentrup and Joe Holtmeier also were quick to throw their support behind the garden.
“We really don’t have within our parks system, a reflective area like this,” said Councilman Tim Brinker. “I think it’s a great enhancement to our parks system.”
Boehmer said park will not center on any religion or have any sponsorship signs or logos. No names will be allowed on signs or benches because they may overshadow the names on the bricks, he noted.
“This is just for our kids. That’s all,” Werner said.
“I know you’re going to have a lot of support from a lot of families in Washington and surrounding areas,” said Councilman Sullentrup. “I hope you get this done in a hurry. It’s a really nice idea.”
Each year, on Dec. 6, communities with Angel of Hope gardens hold candlelight vigils.
“We don’t get to do a lot for our kids at Christmastime so this is really special,” Werner said. “I’ve been to the ceremony at St. Charles and it is just wonderful. It allows us to do a little something for our kids at Christmas.”
Editor’s Note: There is a children’s memorial garden in Pacific, but it is not connected with the Angel of Hope.