A ceremony remembering those we’ve lost in Nevada County to COVID-19 and to retire the Remembrance Memorial art installation was held at the Rood Center yesterday. County staff and electeds were joined by the artists who created the memorial and community members.

Artists, county staff at the memorial retirement ceremony
County staff and electeds joined by the artists and community members

Alicia Funk, whose idea was at the inception of the memorial, said”

“On behalf of our community, thank you to everyone here for all of your hard work during this crisis. I want to extend my deep appreciation to the places that hosted the sculpture – Nevada City at Robinson Plaza, Truckee Downtown Association, Madelyn Helling Library and the Rood Center. Thank you to the team of artists who created this sculpture – Peggy Wright, Lyssa Skeahan, Kevin Cowan and Charles Kritzon.

The first community member died from Covid-19 on April 3rd, 2020. When the sculpture opened a year later, in April of 2021, we hung 75 engraved rings honoring community members we had lost. Now, on April 5, 2022, there are 136 people we are remembering; 74 men and 62 women from our county. This sculpture was designed as a way for our community to come together and acknowledge the challenges we’ve faced over the past two years and the people we’ve lost.

This crisis has left no one untouched, with unprecedented changes and stress in work, school, recreation, travel, social connection and our health. The people who lost loved ones due to the disease suffered their grief without the comfort of gathering together with their families and community. We hope this sculpture has united us in our shared loss and helped our community begin to heal.

I would like to present Lisa Kysar with this engraved manzanita honoring her husband Chris, who was a local business owner and esteemed member of our community. We miss his presence and are so sorry for your loss.”

Nevada County's Public Health leaders and county CEO Alison Lehman
Nevada County’s Public Health leaders and County CEO Alison Lehman

Jill Blake’s prepared remarks expressed what Public Health staff, both in their professional and personal capacity experienced:

I am honored to be here to express gratitude for this lovely, moving memorial and to mark its significance and its retirement.

I am the Director of the Nevada County Public Health Department, and we at the department worked very hard with the community to protect our community from this virus, and still this historic pandemic has so far ended the lives of 136 Nevada County residents – family, friends and loved ones who were in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and up to our centenarians.

Anyone who has lost a loved one knows the potent grief that follows their death. And many of these losses due to COVID-19 were complicated – complicated by dismissal, by blame, by misinformation about COVID-19. These complications made the grieving process much more difficult for some, and relief for many was very difficult to find.

Many of us were unable to comfort and shepherd our loved ones as they died. That job was left to compassionate health care professionals for whom we will forever be grateful. In addition, many of us who lost loved ones were not able to engage in the memorials, funerals, or other rituals that help us to express our feelings, our sorrow, commemorate loss, honor the people who died, tell their stories, and help to bring about closure.

For many of us, this beautiful memorial provided these opportunities – a place to acknowledgement the pandemic’s toll, to acknowledge loss, a place to mourn, a place to feel less alone in our grief, a place to remember others who are grieving too, a place to find a moment of peace.

What a beautiful, healing balm you provided to our community with this remembrance. On behalf of those of us whose loved ones died from COVID-19, on behalf of the people who cared for these people while they were ill, I thank you for honoring these lives, and for providing some solace to us all.

In community presentations we share a definition of public health as what we, as a society, do collectively to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy. In this generous act of creativity and sharing that helped to mend individual and community wounds, you became a most critical public health partner. Thank you again.

The memorial has been at Robinsons Plaza in Nevada City, the Truckee Community Recreation Center, the Madelyn Helling Library, and the Eric Rood Administrative Center for at least six weeks at each location. The memorial is woven of elements from Nevada County – manzanita, willow, and granite. Each manzanita ring is engraved to honor a lost community member. Find more information at www.nevadacountyremembers.com.