By Joshua Maloni
Village of Lewiston resident Norah Perez recently submitted a letter to this publication asking what became of the work an acclaimed writer donated to the International Peace Garden on Center Street.
At a dedication ceremony in 2010, “Renowned poet Robert M. Giannetti delivered his fine tribute to those gathered to mark the abiding alliance between two countries once divided by the War of 1812,” Perez wrote. “In a well-publicized event, residents and representatives from Lewiston, New York, and Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada, arrived from both sides of the Niagara River to commemorate 200 years of staunch friendship and mutual respect.”
Perez wrote, “ ‘In this garden hope is clear and bright – springing from earth in stirring breeze, telling time in fruitful fragrance under sky afire and in sustaining rain,’ Giannetti recited. ‘Garden’s fine, let mind incline to greening thought, so long sought, so long sought.’
“Today, a cobbled path of memorial stones tell intimate stories of both the living and the dead as people stopping by pass under the welcoming archway to enter a flowering haven beyond. There, in the spacious courtyard surrounded by masses of crimson roses, snowy hydrangeas, and other blooms carefully maintained by the Lewiston Garden Club, volunteers and the local DPW, is a magnificent bust of Morgan Lewis (sculpted by Susan Geissler of Youngstown), once the third governor of New York state, whose noteworthy name the village adopted in 1805. This inviting area also contains trees, shrubs and other greenery, meditative areas, a fountain, Oriental statuary, tables and benches, a chess board and pool, and a curving platform used by performers and entertainers during numerous Lewiston Festival events.
“Yet what has happened to Robert Giannetti’s Peace Garden poem delivered at the initial dedication and installed there as a gift to the community?”
She broached the subject with the Village of Lewiston Board of Trustees on Monday.
“Lately, I’ve noticed it’s missing. It’s gone. I’ve asked questions. I can’t seem to get any answers,” Perez said. She added, “I think it should be restored, put back where it belongs, maybe even improved – weather-proofed; maybe a nicer pedestal?”
“Does anybody have any idea what happened to the Peace Garden poem?” Perez asked.
Mayor Anne Welch said, “When we were working in the Peace Garden, it was in really bad shape. It was wooden, and it (had become) illegible. You couldn't even read it anymore. I took it home and even asked my husband, ‘Could you fix it?’ (Welch’s husband, Bob, restored the toll booth that now sits next to the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce office in Academy Park.) It was really beyond that.
“But, if you could give us the poem, maybe we could do something that would last better than the wood? Because, like I say, it was not salvageable.”
Perez said, “It would be easy to get another copy. But it should be weather-proofed. … Would there be funds available to get it back in place?”
Welch said she thought the village had money available in a Peace Garden account.
“If you could get us the poem again, I would suggest we do it more on a bronze plaque, because the wood just doesn’t last,” Welch said.
She added, “Maybe we even put it on a stone that we don’t need a post or anything.”
“OK,” Perez responded. “You’ve answered my question.”