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Superior garden offers place for reflection after loss of a child

Located on the second point in Billings Park, the Children's Memorial Garden surrounds grieving families, friends with a place to remember.

Woman holding flowers as she walks around the garden.
Monica Tikkanen explores the Children's Memorial Garden on Thursday, July 21, while carrying flowers in memory of her grandson, who died in 2015.
Wyatt Buckner / Duluth News Tribune
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SUPERIOR — Monica Tikkanen held a small vase with flowers from her garden in memory of her grandson, A.J. Conley, as the Children’s Memorial Garden was dedicated Thursday, July 21.

The garden on the second point of Billings Park was created as a place where people can find peace remembering a child they have lost.

A.J. was 5 years old, the middle child of Tikkanen’s five grandchildren born to her daughter and son-in-law, Allison and Jay Conley. A.J. died in his sleep on Halloween in 2015.

Woman with 2-year-old daughter explore the garden.
Mikayla Drinkwine, right, explores the new garden with her 2-year-old daughter Cadence, left, in Superior on Thursday, July 21.
Wyatt Buckner / Duluth News Tribune

“I am so pleased that people got together to honor their loved one,” Tikkanen said of the Children’s Memorial Garden.

The garden got its start in September 2014, when a group of four involved in the Superior-Douglas County Leadership program got together to develop a space of hope, peace and healing for someone who lost a child, said Katelyn Baumann, an original member of the group who saw the project through to its dedication.

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“This garden is dedicated to all those who grieve the loss of a child, regardless of the age of the child or how they passed,” Baumann said. “This space is for everyone.”

Woman cuts ribbon with community leaders in front of garden.
Katelyn Baumann cuts the ribbon during the dedication ceremony for the Children's Memorial Garden in Superior on Thursday, July 21.
Wyatt Buckner / Duluth News Tribune

The work to create a garden has included numerous community partners who helped raise money and design a space that is sustainable, Baumann said.

“As you enter there, it’s like being surrounded there, like being embraced by nature,” said Gary Banker of Blooms' Brothers, which created the garden's final design and will maintain it after adopting it.

Banker wrote a poem that is in the garden, which he said is a place of remembrance.

Archway in front of garden.
The archway leading into the Children's Memorial Garden in Superior.
Wyatt Buckner / Duluth News Tribune

Stacey Minter, a member of the leadership team that approached the city about creating the Children’s Memorial Garden in 2015, said it filled her heart to see the garden dedicated Thursday.

“I want to honor Katelyn,” Minter said. “She really did everything to see this project through to the end. I was here in the beginning, and her vision has been so strong … to see it finally done and dedicated and getting the attention that it deserves is just beyond words.”

Most people in Superior haven’t experienced the loss of a child and the real and dark emotions that accompany such a loss, said Mayor Jim Paine.

“That life, however brief, really did matter,” Paine said. “Gardens do that better than anything else can because flowers, plants, are really just here for a short time and may be all the more beautiful for it … in this city, you won’t have to go through it alone.”

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Tikkanen said she still sees her grandson, A.J., everywhere despite losing him almost seven years ago to a virus that caused encephalitis.

Garden in Billings Park in Superior.
The Children's Memorial Garden in Billings Park in Superior on Thursday, July 21.
Wyatt Buckner / Duluth News Tribune

“It’s hard for people,” Tikkanen said.

She remains friends with women who lost children who were as young as 3 years old to fully grown adults.

“I thought about those women … I would like to bring each one of those friends alone to the garden so we can remember our loved ones together as women, as grieving mothers and grandmothers,” Tikkanen said. “It gives you the opportunity to love your lost loved one even more.”

Remembering a child

Parents who have lost a child can purchase a brick in their child's memory.

Bricks will be placed in the pathway to the Children’s Memorial Garden. They can be purchased through the city’s parks, recreation and forestry department for $50, $75 or $125 depending on the style preferred. Applications are due annually by Dec. 1 for engraving and placement the following June.

To ensure that every family has an opportunity to remember a lost child, scholarships are available, said Katelyn Baumann, whose leadership group started the Children’s Memorial Garden.

For information, call 715-395-7270 or visit ci.superior.wi.us and search for Children’s Memorial Garden Brick Pathway Sponsorship.

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Woman holding flowers standing with community members.
Monica Tikkanen, right, joined community members to witness the dedication of the new Children's Memorial Garden in Superior on Thursday, July 21.
Wyatt Buckner / Duluth News Tribune
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Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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