We hear the numbers on the news, we read them in the paper, but for those who had loved ones pass away due to Covid-19, there are faces behind the statistics. They’re mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, children, grandparents, friends.
Nearly 57,000 Californians have died since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic just over a year ago. Within Moonshine Ink’s coverage area, as of press time, El Dorado County had lost 105 residents; Placer, 252; and Nevada’s Washoe County 661.
For Nevada County, the California state database was reporting that 84 residents passed away from Covid-19. In an effort to honor their memories, the Nevada County Remembrance Memorial will travel to several locations throughout the county over the course of the summer.
“Social distancing protocols and the need to protect the privacy of families who’ve lost loved ones has created a perfect storm of isolated grieving,” said Alicia Funk, one of the organizers of the memorial. “Collaborating with artists and community members to build this memorial has been healing to all of us and we hope it will help the community to grieve and move forward from this unimaginable year.”
A 6-foot-high column woven of natural elements from Nevada County, the memorial bears an inscription etched in local granite. Engraved manzanita rings hanging from willow branches will honor each resident who passed away from communities throughout the county.
“ … we need to find a way to grieve together,” Funk wrote in an email to Moonshine Ink. “The memorial is interactive and gives families a way to acknowledge their loved ones and also allows the community to add condolence messages. The Nevada County Remembers website provides a space for families to post obituaries and photos as well as a way for community members of all ages to add their stories of what they’ve experienced during the pandemic.”
Family members of those who’ve succumbed to Covid, elected officials, and an alliance of artists will dedicate the memorial at Robinson Plaza in downtown Nevada City. It opens to the public on May 3, remaining in Robinson Plaza for six weeks before being moved to the Truckee Community Recreation Center, June 15 through Sept. 1. From there it will be transferred to downtown Grass Valley for another six weeks, and finally arrive in its permanent residence at the Eric Rood Administrative Center in Nevada City in October.
The above-mentioned team of local artists and community members envisioned and donated their time to construct the memorial, including Funk, Peggy Wright, Lyssa Skeahan and Kevin Cowan of Other World Customs, Charles Kritzon, and Sarah Regan. Sweet Roots Farm contributed the willow branches, Liam Ellerby of The Curious Forge completed the metalwork, Grass Valley Sign provided the plaques, and Robinson’s donated the local granite.
“I had been feeling really sad about seeing the Covid mortality and case numbers go up each week on the county website, but didn’t know how to mourn them,” said Funk, noting that only the victims’ genders, not names, have been made public. “These community members have remained invisible due to privacy issues and the political nature of this disease.”
She and the other organizers are hoping to learn the names of more residents who have lost their lives to Covid so they can be honored with an engraved ring and have their obituary posted on the website.
“We cannot return those who have died to the living, but through this memorial, we can remember them and safeguard that they will not be forgotten,” said Dr. Scott Kellermann, public health officer of Nevada County. “Although their lives were shortened by this virus, we can continue to do in our lives what they demonstrated in theirs, by our sharing of love, compassion, and mercy.”
~ Juliana Demarest/Moonshine Ink