Park Dedicated to Boy with "Angelic Voice"

Thursday, June 16, 2016, 7:00 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

Above: Sheila Taylor speaking at the dedication, with Mayor Mark Meadows standing to her left

At the dedication of Corey Cafagna Park yesterday evening, Sheila Taylor told a crowd of almost a hundred people, “I feel this has always been Corey Cafagna’s park and we have simply put up a sign to acknowledge that fact. When he was in the park he was at ease with the world.”

In 2014, Taylor had recommended to the City that the small park, located at the southeast corner of Southlawn Avenue and Sunset Lane, be named after Corey. He lived next door to the park, where his parents Beth and Al still live, and often came to the park to sing. Taylor recalled his voice as “angelic, ringing from the trees.”

In his welcoming remarks, Mayor Mark Meadows said he thought the timing of the dedication was particularly appropriate since this weekend brings the 20th East Lansing Summer Solstice Jazz Festival, to which Beth and Al Cafagna have provided critical support over the years. Meadows praised the Cafagnas for their commitment to supporting families with autism (Corey was autistic) and to their work with Compassionate Friends, a national organization dedicated to families that have lost a child.

Beth Cafagna spoke to thank those in attendance, including “friends from Edgewood [United Church], Compassionate Friends, old and new friends, and neighbors.” She also acknowledged Corey’s East Lansing teachers without whom, she said, “Corey would not have progressed like he did.”

Cafagna also thanked the City’s Parks and Recreation Department for working to help make the space into a more inviting space, including by installing a sign, benches, and flowers. Chris Root, who lives directly across Sunset Lane from the Park, told me after the formal dedication that City staff were out yesterday morning in the pouring rain to plant the flowers that now line the west side.

The park is just west of Hannah Community Center, a former school. Beth Cafagna said that when the building was a school, many children passed through and used the park, and she hopes that with the improvement of the space, more children will come and play.

“Think of this as your backyard,” Cafagna told the neighbors in attendance. Her remarks echoed those of Taylor, who said she hoped people would bring their children and grandchildren to play in the space.

After the dedication remarks, those who had gathered stayed to socialize. Beth Cafagna opened the social time by saying, “Now we’ll do what Corey would have liked best, which is to have ice cream and root beer.”