Angel shows love for child; Uxbridge helps grieving parents.
UXBRIDGE - Never underestimate the power of parents' love for a child.
Tracy L. and Brett Pomeroy's tiny daughter Sadie Grace Pomeroy defied the odds by being born, and defied the odds again by living for 14 months. Sadie never weighed more than 8 pounds. Although she had to fight every step of the way for her life, Sadie's life was a miracle of hope. She was born Aug. 16, 2006, and defied the odds surviving birth because she was diagnosed with trisomy 18, a chromosomal syndrome. Of those who survive it, about half do not survive past one week. Fewer than 10 percent of babies born with trisomy 18 survive a year, according to the Trisomy 18 Foundation.
The Pomeroys also defied the odds by raising $41,000 in just 10 months to construct an Angel of Hope shrine and memorial garden for other bereaved parents. The garden and shrine, on town-owned Gray Rock property off Hartford Avenue East overlooking Peaceful Pond, will be a place to remember Sadie and other children who have died.
"What they've done is to break all land and sea records," said Lisa D. Johnson, angel coordinator with The Christmas Box House in Salt Lake City. She lives in Utah and will be flying out for the dedication. "This accomplishment speaks to their hope and passion."
The Blackstone Valley Angel of Hope is the 85th such shrine built in the United States in the past 11 years. Ms. Johnson said the process of raising money and finding a location typically takes two to three years.
The Blackstone Valley Angel of Hope dedication ceremony will be held at 6:30 p.m. Saturday - Sadie's birthday - at Gray Rock, following a short candlelit walk from the Progressive Club. The club is across Hartford Avenue East at 18 Whitin St., where there will be parking. There will be a dessert reception at the club after the dedication ceremony.
"After Sadie died," Mr. Pomeroy said, "we were very sad, and overwhelmed with grief and such a sense of loss. We knew we had to do something to remember her and show our appreciation for the way that the community treated us throughout Sadie's life."
The pain and sorrow of losing Sadie was unbearable, the Pomeroys said. To help them cope with their loss, they decided to visit a memorial Dec. 6, 2007, at the Angel of Hope Shrine in Sturbridge for parents who have experienced the loss of a child. They were part of the huge crowds at St. Anne and St. Patrick Parish off Route 20 in Sturbridge for the dedication of the country's 73rd Angel of Hope statue and one of two in the state (the other is in Easthampton). The Uxbridge statue will be the third; Ms. Johnson also will attend the dedication of the state's fourth statue, in North Adams, next Sunday. Also of great comfort to the Pomeroys was seeing the memorial brick on the path to the angel shrine commemorating their child, "Sadie Grace Pomeroy - God's little miracle."
About 2,300 bricks - most of them blank, some with the names of deceased children - were placed in a walkway in Sturbridge around the statue. Mr. Pomeroy said there are already 30 engraved bricks ready to be installed in Uxbridge.
Though they initially floated several ideas in town to locate the statue, the idea of using a small portion of five acres of town-owned land off Hartford Avenue East, part of the former Whitin Estate destroyed by fire in 1991, came from a chance meeting at a dance recital for Peter Baghdasarian's granddaughter in the spring. Mr. Baghdasarian serves on the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee. He and his wife, Susan, attended a dance recital and at intermission noticed Mrs. Pomeroy selling bracelets. They inquired what the family was raising money for, and Mr. Baghdasarian suggested Gray Rock as a location.
Mr. Baghdasarian lost his 25-year-old son in 1992 when the all-terrain vehicle he was riding went into icy water at Echo Lake in Hopkinton. Mrs. Baghdasarian lost her 12-year-old son when he was hit by a car 27 years ago. Mrs. Baghdasarian said they ordered engraved bricks for each of their sons.
"There are a lot of mothers and fathers in this area that have lost children," Mrs. Baghdasarian said.
The property was a gift to the town from nearby condo developers, and it is also the proposed location for a new North Uxbridge fire station. There are existing stone walls, and a fountain area would be an ideal and complementary location for a proposed park near the memorial. The former owners imported yellow poplar trees and other vegetation from France for their one-time opulent gardens. Some of the trees at Gray Rock are more than 80 feet tall, and at least three of them surround the site of the angel shrine.
The Christmas Box Angel Statue was part of the book "The Christmas Box" by Richard Paul Evans. In the book, a woman at the base of an angel monument mourns the loss of her child. The story is fictional, but an angel monument once existed in Utah, but is believed to have been destroyed. The new angel statue was commissioned by the author in response to reports that grieving parents were seeking out the angel as a place to grieve and heal. That first statue was dedicated in 1994 in Salt Lake City. Ms. Johnson, a mother of four, lost her husband to cancer a number of years ago, and Mr. Evans, her longtime friend, asked her to work as angel coordinator. The second angel statue went to Oklahoma City to honor victims of the bombing of the federal building. Ms. Johnson said that was the first dedication she attended.
Enormously moved by their experience in Sturbridge and grateful for the overwhelming support they received from family, friends and the community, the Pomeroys were prompted to build an Angel of Hope Shrine and memorial garden in the Blackstone Valley.
The angel shrine costs about $20,000 for a bronze angel on a 4-foot granite base. The angel is 4 feet 3 inches tall with a 5-foot-2-inch wingspan. The angel memorial is being built by Atlantic View Inc. Landscape Construction Co. of Douglas.
Mr. Pomeroy credits his wife with being the driving force to complete the memorial by what would have been Sadie's second birthday.
"This is really a tribute to Tracy's fervor and commitment," Mr. Pomeroy said. "There were a lot of doubters. They said we'd never raise the money, you'll never find a spot. ... Tracy never doubted. They say, `These angels always find a home.' That's what Lisa told us."
The family had to order the angel statue from Utah at least three months in advance, and they needed a $15,000 deposit. They had raised only about $12,000 by February, but raised the deposit money by April. Besides raising money from donations, Mrs. Pomeroy made 250 Christmas ornaments that sold for $15, the family made chocolates for a Valentine's chocolate-tasting event in town, and Mrs. Pomeroy also sold "Sadie" bracelets. She has made more than 300 customized pearl bracelets with tiny silver charms that sell for $25 each. Besides the small pearls, each bracelet has one small, transparent green peridot gemstone - Sadie's birthstone - though Mrs. Pomeroy will customize bracelets with any child's birthstone.
The Blackstone Valley Angel of Hope Golf Tournament, which raised $18,600 to build an angel shrine, was held May 10 at Blissful Meadows Golf Club, and another tournament is planned for next year. Mr. Pomeroy said local lawyer Robert Finnegan donated his time and expertise to help the family set up a tax-exempt organization dedicated to building and maintaining a memorial garden. An account for donations to the Blackstone Valley Angel of Hope has been established at UniBank, 25 North Main St., Uxbridge, MA 01569.
Mrs. Pomeroy said completing the goal by Sadie's birthday is bittersweet, and though it has been a positive distraction, the memorial represents another ending. She said she will go back to teaching school full time in the fall.
"We did it for Sadie, and so many other children, too," Mrs. Pomeroy said. "The angel is just so beautiful."
For more information, visit www.blackstonevalleyangelofhope.org.
CUTLINE: (1) Brett and Tracy Pomeroy and their children, from left, Camden, 7; Braeden, 6; and Lucas, 10, on the grounds of the Blackstone Valley Angel of Hope Memorial near Peaceful Pond in North Uxbridge. (2) Brett Pomeroy explains how the fountain of the old Gray Lodge mansion will flow once again when the Angel of Hope is completed. (3) The Angel of Hope statue in Sturbridge.
PHOTOG: (1, 2) RICH DUGAS (3) SUBMITTED PHOTO