Laguna Beach, CA
United States
Mountain Rd. & beach Laguna Beach Garden of Peace and Love since 1 December 1989
without names
Laguna remembers AIDS garden creator
Friends of Michel Martenay found some peace Saturday night in the garden he created as a memorial to people who had died of AIDS. Martenay, a Paris native who had lived in Laguna Beach since 1979, died from the disease himself about a week ago. Friends described him as a fixture in the community, always ready to talk about the latest additions to the garden he tended next to the beach access stairs on Mountain Road. "Slowly but surely over a period of years, he turned it into a beautiful place," said Ross Unger.
A group of about 15 people gathered with candles to reminisce about Martenay, who organized similar memorials for others when he was healthy. The Garden of Peace and Love contains the ashes of people who died from the disease over the years, as well as providing a sanctuary for those who remained. Martenay decorated the peaceful spot overlooking the ocean with donated plants, or ones he salvaged. Heart-shaped rocks he collected over the years line the pathway, itself a larger heart.
Martenay also acted as a landscaper in Laguna Beach, and several people described his enthusiasm for anything growing. "It seemed like everyday he'd bring something over and plant it," Jimmy Graesser said. One thing the garden lacks is an irrigation system. For years, Martenay hand-watered the plants.
When he became too ill to do so, friends and neighbors pitched in. Sean Minney was sitting on the bench beside the garden one day three months ago when he met Martenay. As the two became friends, Minney also began taking part in planting flowers and watering the garden. "It felt good to be part of something," he said. Minney said he'd like to plan other memorials in the future.
For now, there's no specific plan for how to keep the garden going, but Martenay's friends said they're sure the community will continue his legacy. "I'm going to be down here," Minney said.
Photos © Kelli Hart The Orange County Register

30 November 2009
Claudia Koerner, Laguna Beach, CA