CTPA is very pleased to announce the groundbreaking for the Veteran’s Home and Hospital Healing Garden at the Connecticut Veteran’s Home in Rocky Hill. When completed, there will be 5 Connecticut-native shade trees planted, along with 5 benches to rest on and several small gardens within the larger garden. Tying these features together is a walkway, slightly less than 300 feet long, constructed in a loop and wide enough for 2 wheelchairs to pass by each other.
The garden is being constructed for the veterans that are recovering on the property and their families. The Home and Hospital Healing Garden is on the lawn next to the Sgt. John L. Levitow Veteran’s Healthcare Center, a 125-bed long-term care facility at the Veteran’s Home. Many of the vets who make use of the Healthcare Center are disabled, and so wheelchair access and level ground are a must. The lawn in which this new garden is located, however, gives way to a slope and a spectacular view down a valley that reaches eventually to the Connecticut River.
This whole project has been the brainchild of CTPA President Bud Neal. Bud has persevered for more than 3 years, seeing the project through changes of administration, rumors of a relocation of the center, and stories of potential construction on the garden site. Throughout, Bud has kept this idea alive, alongside his dedication to the veterans.
The number “5” is significant to this garden. The 5 benches are connected to the 5 wars fought since the mid-20th century, from which there are still veterans alive. The 5 trees represent the 5 branches of the service (army, navy, air force, marines and coast guard). When the mature, the branches of the trees will touch, providing shelter to the veterans and their family members who will sit on the benches and appreciate the view down the valley.
The idea itself can be said to be five-star. From early on, Bud has been assisted in the planning of the Healing Garden by CTPA member and Master Gardener Sandy Ingellis. It is Sandy who is guiding the location of the benches, the layout of the smaller gardens and the overall sense to be provided by the garden.
On Wednesday, October 11, 2017, groundbreaking on this project occurred, when O&G industries began construction of the walkway. In the course of his own military service, Bud happened to cross paths with another soldier, Ray Oneglia. Mr. Oneglia’s grandfather was a co-founder of O&G Industries in Torrington and Ray is now Vice-Chairman of the Board at the company. When Bud shared his idea with Mr. Oneglia, Ray shared Bud’s enthusiasm and personally gave his go-ahead to the donation of O&G’s services to the construction of the walkway. This first phase of the project will be completed very soon – probably by the end of next week.
Sandy is predicting full completion of the Healing Garden by Veteran’s Day, 2018. It is hoped that the first tree will be in place by Veteran’s Day of this year, at which time the official groundbreaking of this project will be acknowledged. The remainder of the trees should be planted and a more formal dedication may be made by Memorial Day next year.
Meanwhile, Bud is simply thrilled that a dream is becoming a reality. Bud deflects all credit back to the spirit of sacrifice among the veterans.
Other groups and individuals, such as the Tree Wardens’ Association of Connecticut, have expressed their support for this project. Anyone wishing to know more about this project or discuss how they may be able to offer their support are invited to contact the CTPA Office.