During a solemn yet celebratory event at the Heinz campus Sept. 19, relatives of deceased Veterans set butterflies aloft to remember their loved ones.
The Butterfly Memorial at the Freemason's Pavilion honored the Veterans who had passed away at the Community Living Center between Oct. 1, 2011 and Aug. 1, 2012. Around 175 people and 23 families came to remember their loved ones.
Sharon Conrad of Shaler Township was there to remember her father, Elmer Eversmann, a Navy Veteran of the Korean War who was 79 years old when he passed away. Eversmann spent the last two weeks of his life at the hospice unit in the Center.
"I am here to celebrate the life he had and honor his service and those of the Veterans who served their country," Conrad said.
Conrad said her father volunteered to work the bingo games held at the Center up until a few months before he died.
"My father was very happy to be here and loved to be able to serve people who were at the VA," she shared.
Several VA employees read the 115 names of the deceased Veterans aloud and Veteran Mark Salopek rang a ship's bell for each name. VA employee Richard Glass's bagpipe music added a dignified note to the butterfly sendoff.
"Many people noticed that the butterflies were landing on their shoulders before flying away," said Memorial Organizer Rosemary Shaw. "People seemed to take that as a sign that their loved ones were saying goodbye."
The ceremony was the first of its kind at the Heinz campus. There are plans to hold more like it in the future.