It wasn‘t hard to see how important
Sunday‘s annual Blake Memorial Grove ceremony was to Agnes Nistico.
Nistico was there to honour the memory of her father, David Thompson
Christie Smith, who passed away in December at age 92.
“It‘s a last tribute to my dad,” she said, her voice catching as
tears welled up in her eyes. “It‘s emotional. It‘s a final goodbye
“I think it‘s very comforting,” she said of the grove itself. “I
think it‘s very thoughtful of (Blake Funeral Chapel).
“At the time of the funeral, of course everything‘s sort of a mixed
array of emotions. This is a little more time to think about
Nistico was one of several hundred expected to attend the ceremony
behind the Slovak Legion on Atlantic Avenue.
With Nistico was her aunt Grace Shelling, Smith‘s sister, who flew
in from Vancouver for the ceremony. She was unable to attend Smith‘s
service, she said.
“I feel very privileged that I was able to come,” Shelling said.
“I think the tree idea is a wonderful thing,” she said. “I‘ve never
heard of any others, I don‘t think.”
Shelling said she‘d like to see more efforts like the grove, where
people are remembered through something “useful and something
“There‘s enough ugliness in the world, goodness knows,” she said.
“I‘m so glad I‘m able to be here.”
The annual ceremony is the result of a partnership between Blake
Funeral Chapel, the Lakehead Conservation Foundation and the
Lakehead Conservation Authority, said Blake president Joseph Salini.
It‘s been happening for 19 years, he said.
“We have, as of this year, engaged with them to plant more than
5,000 trees in the grove,” Salini said. “For each person whose
funeral we‘ve conducted during the course of the previous calendar
year, we will plant a tree.
“And there are people who can also make private donations, if they
wish to, through us or the foundation.”
That, too, will result in a tree planted in someone‘s memory. The
grove now stretches along both banks of the Neebing-McIntyre
Floodway from Fort William Road to the shore of Lake Superior.
“We find, obviously, when they come to us in their time of need when
they‘ve suffered a loss, it‘s a very traumatic time,” Salini said.
“But when they come together today. . . everybody‘s here for the
same reason because they‘ve all suffered a loss. But in essence
we‘re all here to celebrate the planting of these trees, the legacy
of the person and persons who‘ve passed on.”