Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A citizen-led Memorial Committee will be formed to set the ground rules for publicly honoring deceased distinguished Lockportians.
Common Council President Anne McCaffrey read a prepared statement confirming the committee at the beginning of the council’s Wednesday business meeting, where residents, former residents and Buffalo TV reporters were gathered in anticipation of a debate about naming a city park after fallen Buffalo police officer Patricia Parete.
Instead of arguing for or against Parete Park, residents voiced nearly universal support for an all-purpose “fallen heroes” memorial somewhere in the city. Even the former Lockportian who asked for Parete Park ended up endorsing the idea.
The Council recently turned down the request by Buffalo resident Joe DiPasquale, who along with Parete was a member of the Lockport Senior High School Class of 1983. Parete died earlier this year, after being shot while on duty in 2006 and paralyzed.
Ahead of the Class of ‘83’s upcoming reunion, DiPasquale asked the Council to rename Rogers Park — and threatened to rain a torrent of bad publicity down on City Hall when he was told “no.” Hence the TV cameras at the Council meeting.
According to McCaffrey and other aldermen, the Council declined to name a park after Parete in deference to other Lockportians who may deserve memorializing, but have not had public property named after them. A few years ago the Council turned down a request by the family of Army Spec. Albert Jex, a Lockport resident who was killed in Iraq in 2009, to rename the Stevens Street bridge after him.
When faced with naming requests, the Council’s dilemma has always been the same, according to Mayor Michael Tucker: How can it name things after some fallen local heroes but not others? What’s the rationale?
The Memorial Committee’s charge is to draft a policy on memorials and naming, or renaming, parks, streets and public buildings.
According to 5th Ward Alderman Kenneth Genewick, who’s co-chairing the panel with 3rd Ward Alderman Kathryn Fogle, it also will develop a plan for a Fallen Heroes memorial, possibly to be sited in Outwater Memorial Park near the overlook.
In addition, the committee will be asked to document existing memorials around the city, research the people who were memorialized, and prepare the information for public dissemination.
The committee will include a local historian, a military veteran, representatives from the police and fire departments and interested residents.
Ultimately its goal is to develop “an inclusive application process that encourages nominations” for addition at the proposed Fallen Heroes memorial, Genewick said.
At the outset, the names of three native sons and daughters are guaranteed to be on it: Parete, Jex, and Niagara County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeffrey Incardona, who died in the line of duty in 1993.
Incardona’s family sent a letter to the Council regarding the memorial issue that was read aloud at the Council meeting. The family never sought a monument for him and agreed a memorial “for all fallen heroes would be appropriate,” the letter said.
Cathy McFarlane, Albert Jex’s mom, voiced approval of the idea as well.
DiPasquale, the Parete classmate who had asked for renaming of Rogers Park — and then hurled a charge of homophobia at city leaders, claiming they didn’t want to memorialize Parete because she was gay — addressed the Council and said that he also approves of a Fallen Heroes memorial and Parete’s inclusion on it.
“Thanks for agreeing to find a way” to honor Parete, he said, adding that he intends to “hold the Common Council to (its) promise.”
Regarding Rogers Park, Craig Bacon, deputy Niagara County historian, presented information showing that for many years the park has been referred to improperly as “Rogers Avenue Park,” even on a city-made sign there.
The park is in fact named after the Rogers family, Nathan B. Rogers, and his brothers George, James, John and William who came from Massachusetts in the early 1800s and helped settle and develop the village/city. All of the siblings were distinguished men in the community, involved with manufacturing, commerce and/or banking, according to Bacon’s research.
Together the brothers owned “Rogers Grove,” an undeveloped land area roughly bounded by Irving Street, Livingston Place, Woodlawn and East avenues that the brothers gave the community free use of for public gatherings.
By 1926, most of the grove had been sold off and turned into roadways and residential subdivisions. To preserve what wasn’t developed, residents petitioned the Common Council to declare it a park.
The Rogers Park was enlarged in 1936, when the city parks and shade trees commission resolved to buy the last piece of the original Rogers Grove and erect a playground, according to Bacon.