STORY AND PHOTOS BY BJ GRECO
On Tuesday, April 22, under less than cooperative skies, over 150 family members, members of the community, first responders, students, and staff, gathered on the Piermont Pier to participate in a memorial service for TZHS ’09 alum, Melissa Demataris who last October lost a valiantly fought four year battle with leukemia.
It was planned that 300 sky lanterns would be lit and launched over the Hudson in a final tribute to the courage and resolve of Melisaa, but the weather was not being supportive.
The evening began with opening words and words of thanks from TZHS Nurse Judy Flagg, who is the TZHS Blood Team advisor and worked closely with Melissa as well as her family. The TZHS blood team worked tirelessly to run drives in Melissa’s name when she needed a great deal of blood for transfusions during her illness.
Members of the TZHS Blood Team then read their words to Melissa entitled “Always a Smile on Her Face.” TZHS vocal teacher Russell Wagoner led the Bella Acapella in singing “What a Wonderful World.”
The NY Blood Center’s Robin Friehling, the TZHS account manager, then expressed her feelings to the assembled crowd about how she met Melissa and the relationship that was born of their work together through the Blood Center.
Friehling said, “Melissa had the biggest smile that she always wore no matter how she was feeling on the inside. The raindrops falling intermittently right now are just a few tears from heaven in-between the happy memories,” she concluded. The TZHS Concert Choir then sang “Smile” followed by a reading by Judy Flagg entitled “A Beautiful Butterfly.”
Members of the audience were then called upon to light sky the lanterns with the assistance of the entire Blood Team, and, poignantly, the skies cleared for a few minutes to allow the launching of the lanterns because they could not have been lit in the rain. Many participants said they felt like the timely parting of the clouds was a gift from above.
As the lanterns filled with hot air they took off, as if on cue, into the night sky. The TZHS Choir then closed the evening with “Goodnight Melissa” (taken from “Goodnight, My Someone” from “The Music Man”).