BY Molly Congdon
CLIFTON PARK — July 22 was the definition of a perfect day. The sun dazzled fiercely against the cloudless blue sky. Cars filled the rocky parking along Route 146 at Garnsey Park and spilled over onto the grass as their drivers attended the dedication ceremony for the completion of a Memory Garden, in honor of Maria Sciocchetti — a Shenendehowa graduate and local architect who passed away at the age of 48 in February.
Now when you pull into the stone-speckled lot, you will find a white sidewalk — lined on either side with green bushes — leading you to a place of solitude, serenity and shrubbery.
Gardening was Maria’s passion, so it seemed fitting for one to serve as tribute to her life.
“We are here today to remember and honor a member of the Clifton Park family,” Town Supervisor Phil Barrett said. “This is truly a proud day; behind me as you can see is a beautiful memorial garden, a wonderful place for Clifton Park residents to rest, relax and reflect on their day, on their year and on their lives. It has special meaning not only for the Sciocchetti family but for Clifton Park as a whole … something everyone can share and enjoy in Maria’s memory.”
When this project was run past the Town Board, the members couldn’t say yes quite fast enough. “The final product I think exceeds expectations,” Barrett said. “They did an incredible job; it was a labor of love.”
Maria’s brother, Dino Sciocchetti, spearheaded the operation to complete this masterpiece in honor of his beloved sister. He and many others dedicated their time and resources to develop and build a truly moving and beautiful garden, working closely with Kulak’s Nursery and A.J.S. Masonry — the company owned by his family. Sciocchetti and his family will maintain the garden in conjunction with the town.
He stepped up to the podium with a piece of paper in his hand, prepared to read his speech to the crowd.
“Thank you everybody for coming …”
That was as far as he could get. His hands gripped the wood tightly, his lips pursed together and his gaze went toward the ground. Without hesitation his wife walked up, stood by his side, placed her hand on his and began to read. His words were delivered through her:
“Back in February, when Maria passed away, someone mentioned the idea of a garden; once the idea came out we started talking, scheming and sketching … This is what we ended up with; this beautiful place for everyone to come and enjoy. For those of you who don’t know, my sister Maria was an avid gardener. So much so that when she first bought her house she did what I thought was unthinkable, she took out a pool to make room for a vegetable garden; to me she was taking out a pool, but to her, though, the pool was located in the perfect spot for vegetables, so it had to go. That’s what I call dedication … The flower beds inside this garden are full of plants that my mother Aunt Toni transferred from her house to really make this Maria’s garden.”
On the top of the trellised entrance to guide visitors inside of the miniature stone wall are two words written in cursive: “In Memory.” Four plots — full of plants and flowers — are situated around a center pedestal, the plaque for the garden.
Prior to passing through the threshold of the archway, one will find a lending library, which is the finishing touch that truly makes this reading garden complete. It is in the form of a larger-than-usual mailbox that resembles Maria’s home. She had wanted to put one in the front of her home this summer. Sciocchetti’s wife read aloud: “In a way now Maria will always be here to lend out a book; just like she wanted to do herself.”
Sciocchetti’s closing sentiments brought a smile and a tear to many faces:
“Five months ago I stood in front of many of you and gave a eulogy where I asked that everyone always remember Maria. Now, with this garden, hopefully we all have a special place to come, sit, share our stories and forever keep her in our hearts.”