By Cindy Ryherd
Adam Michael Verrecchia
Adam was an extraordinary child with a very gentle soul who loved nothing more than spending time with family. He loved to play board games, play on his iPad, and read the Bible more than anything else. His favorite verse, which hung on a plaque on his bedroom wall, was “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
In Adam’s short nine-year life, he lived in a way that significantly impacted all who knew him. Born in March 2011, the Verrecchias moved to Hollis in 2012, so it is the only place he called “home.” In 2014, as a very young boy, he started attending the Congregational Church of Hollis with his parents and brother, Luke. His sister, Josie, was born a year later, and in 2018, Joel and Kim became members of the church, and all three children were baptized in the church. Also, in 2018, Kim became the Faith Formation co-superintendent. The rest of the church congregation enjoyed watching this young family become active participants in church life and seeing the children grow. Then Adam started experiencing headaches and other health issues less than a year later.
In May 2019, Adam was diagnosed with Glioma, a malignant brain tumor. Family, friends, church members, teachers, and everyone who knew Adam prayed fervently for him. The physical and emotional rollercoaster over the next 16 months was very difficult, but you wouldn’t know it from Adam. While the illness wreaked havoc on his small body, his strength of spirit and the love and comfort he provided others during his illness were incredible to witness. Others were caregivers to Adam, helping him with his disease’s physical challenges. But HE was the caregiver to us, helping us with the emotional, spiritual, and faith challenges we went through watching this sweet angel go through such difficulties.
Adam lost his fight against brain cancer nearly two years ago, on August 3, 2020. He fought the disease fearlessly and with tremendous faith in God. In the weeks before his passing, Adam said that he knows “everyone has a job to do here on Earth.” His job was to bring people closer to God and exemplify what true love and unwavering faith look like. Anyone who knew Adam will attest that he did this job flawlessly.
The Adam Verrecchia Memorial Community Garden
On the day that Adam died, the Verrecchia family met with Rev. Tanya Stormo Rasmussen, sharing ideas about the possibility of a memorial bench somewhere at the church. Since the church was so important to Adam, they thought having a designated memorial place they could go to spend time reflecting and feeling connected to Adam would be wonderful. But it quickly snowballed into the idea of a garden; Tanya mentioned that a garden on church grounds was an idea tossed around for years. The timing just worked out of wanting a space to remember Adam, coupled with the desire for a community garden.
Family and church members formed a committee and began talking about design elements. They decided on the components of a cross-shaped patio with a fountain, pavilion, butterfly garden section, and other surrounding plantings. The vision was to create a place where all are welcome to enjoy the outdoors, feel God’s presence in the beautiful surroundings, and take time to remember their loved ones who have passed.
As the committee’s garden plans were materializing, many church and community members had already donated money to the church in remembrance of Adam. After officially announcing the memorial garden project, even more donations came in to help fund the creation and maintenance of the garden. Additional funding came from memorial brick orders. In May 2021, the garden committee invited church and community members to buy an engraved brick to memorialize a loved one. In October 2021, the installation of the engraved bricks took place. Between donations and purchased bricks, nearly $32,000 has been raised. Engraved brick orders are still available now, and in the future, for families who lose loved ones whom they want to memorialize.*
In October 2020, the committee received construction approval for the garden, and tree/brush clearing of the space began. It was basically “completed” (suitable for people to visit and enjoy its purpose) in June 2021. Except in the winter months, the garden averages 3-4 groups or pairs of people who spend time in the garden each day. But like all gardens, it remains a work-in-progress with additional plantings and physical elements added regularly. For instance, recently, an outdoor “message center” was added (similar to the kind you see around Beaver Brook: a roof-covered bulletin board). The message center includes a letter from Adam’s parents on behalf of the church, instructions for ordering a memorial brick, flyers of church happenings, and a QR code you can scan with your phone taking you to a webpage with information about Adam and the garden. A planned element soon to come is a granite post with a hanging sign.
What would Adam think of the garden? Kim and Joel said, “He would love that it’s a place where people can spend time together. He loved nothing more than spending time with his family- grandparents, aunts/uncles, and cousins. He would have loved seeing our family and friends from church all working together to create the garden, and now that it’s done, he would love that it’s a place where people can go and spend time together, pray, and feel God’s presence.”
There are far too many people deserving of thanks for their large and small contributions to the creation of the Adam Verrecchia Memorial Community Garden to individually name. People have contributed financially through donations or buying a brick, and by giving their time and equipment in the clearing, construction, planting, and maintaining of the garden. The Verrecchias want to express their sincere thanks to all who have contributed to the garden and all who visit each day, making the vision a reality, the dream come true.