Nerinx, KY
United States
Loretto Motherhouse, 515 Nerinx Rd., hill crest Loretto AIDS Memorial Garden since 16 April 1995
5 names
My brother, Joseph Hardin Denny, died in July 1994. He died of AIDS. At that time, people who died of AIDS were often refused burial in many Cemeteries, Catholic ones especially. As we, his family, tried to grieve and attend to all the things families must do when a member dies, the issue of burial came up. We had already decided that cremation was appropriate. My brother loved flowers; he would scatter wildflower seeds along his way to the University of Cincinnati, where he taught. He often planted little “surprises” for my parents in their yard.
I wondered if the Botanical Garden in St. Louis would entertain the notion of a dedicated spot as a Memorial to those who had died of AIDS. I thought if they would consider this, we could simply scatter Joe’s ashes there without any fanfare, permissions or bureaucratic difficulties. I inquired, they refused. Then I thought of Loretto’s resources. Among these is the beautiful rural area of Nerinx, KY. It felt right. I thought the ground next to Loretto’s cemetery, on a hill, would be a perfect site for a memorial garden and burial place. Other Loretto people in St. Louis supported the idea the board of the Loretto Motherhouse approved it.
My brother’s partner, René, was a landscape architect living in Washington, DC. I called him and he agreed to design the Garden for us. Joey Edelen added his own creativity in putting the Garden together. He found large stones in the creeks around the area and brought them all to the site. I decided the quotes to be put on the stones, had a St. Louis company engrave the plaques, and with plants from local greenhouses Joey and the Motherhouse workers put it altogether. We had Easter Sunday 1995 as the goal for the dedication of the Garden and the burial of Joe Denny’s ashes.
With a song written for the event and a choir formed of Loretto people and others we celebrated the dedication of the AIDS Garden. Mary Ann McGivern also spoke about her gratitude for having a Memorial since her two brothers had died of AIDS in 1986 and 88 and were buried in the Loretto Cemetery. The gathered people were invited to take a plant and plant it. My mother emptied Joe’s ashes into a hole we had dug in front of his stone. David Nieto, son of co-member Mary Jean Friel Nieto and her husband, Leo Nieto, died of Aids. They requested that his ashes be buried in the Garden and that burial was done during the Assembly at the Motherhouse the next summer.
The Garden remains today as a place of contemplation, peace and beauty. May it continue! Photo © Mary L. Denny

27 April 2009
Mary Louise Denny, St. Louis, MO