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AIDS Memorial Set For Lasdon Park Site

By ELSA BRENNER

Published: July 4, 1999

SOMERS - THE first AIDS Memorial Garden on the East Coast will be established at the county's Lasdon Park Arboretum and Veterans Memorial here.

In a joint effort between Westchester and the AIDS Memorial Garden Foundation in Pawling, the county will provide the 234-acre wooded site for the garden, while the nonprofit foundation will raise $1.5 million for its design, construction and maintenance.

The foundation will also establish a greenhouse at the park for tree disease research and for propagating flowers and plants to be used throughout the county's park system.

Brian Doyle, founder and executive director of the foundation, called the garden ''a living monument in a landscape that will grow more beautiful with time.'' It will be patterned after the National AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco.

Mr. Doyle, a chef and restaurateur, conceived the idea for a memorial garden in 1994 when he was a volunteer for the Dutchess County AIDS Related Community Services organization, based in Pawling. At that time he was assigned to a young woman who ultimately died from the disease. After her death, he planted a tree in her memory. He then developed the idea for a larger memorial.

The memorial will consist of formal gardens, a tall bronze statue of figures linked arm in arm, pathways, a reflecting pool and sitting areas. The garden will be designed to provide ''a tranquil setting for contemplation, meditation and personal reflection,'' a county announcement said.

The statue will be created by Juan L. Andreu, a sculptor and painter who was born and trained in Valencia, Spain. Mr. Andreu has been commissioned to design bronze sculptures at several churches in Connecticut, among them St. Rita's Church in Hamden and Sacred Heart Church in Southbury. He was the winner of the annual sculpture competition at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Valencia and the National Sculpture Competition in Guilford, Conn.

A committee of Parks Department staff members and members of the AIDS Memorial Garden Foundation will draw up plans for the memorial.

Since 1965, more than half of 3,000 people in Westchester with AIDS have died. In 1997, the most recent year for which figures are available, 64.3 percent of AIDS victims in the county were men and 35.7 were women.

Lasdon is home to many specimen trees and plantings, an azalea garden and the county's Chinese Friendship Pavilion, a gift from Westchester sister city, Jingzhou, China. It is also the site of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial overlooking the Muscoot Reservoir and the Trail of Honor, which consists of 12 sculptures of combat soldiers, from the American Revolution through Operation Desert Storm.

For the last decade, Lasdon has also been a site for butternut, dogwood and American chestnut tree disease research.

The site was chosen in part because of its nearness to New York City, the county's announcement said.

Contributions may be sent to the AIDS Memorial Garden Foundation, Post Office Box 595, Pawling, N.Y. 12564. The number to call for information is 635-8390. ELSA BRENNER

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