The Unistress Community Team installed the benches and the bookhouse.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — As a teen, Kirsten Rocca's brother would take her car every single chance he got.
And who could blame him? She drove a 1986 Camero Z28. That's a memory Rocca has that both brings a chuckle and a tear.
It has been 29 years since she's seen her brother. Neils "Nick" Kristensen died on July 27, 1989, in a car accident when the work truck he was in slid off the road. Kristensen had just finished his senior year in McCann Tech's electricity program and he loved cars, motorcycles and hunting with his family.
Recently, Rocca and her family decided they wanted to make some type of donation to the town of Lanesborough to make sure Kristensen's memory lived on.
Joanne Taylor Laston Froio tries not to bring up the similar memories she has of her own son. William E. Laston was a motorcycle enthusiast just like Kristensen, he liked to hunt, and he was a linebacker for Mount Greylock before he graduated in 1997.
At age 23, he too was involved in an accident and died on July 21, 2002.
The family of Laston rallied together with community members and 10 years ago the newly build Laston Memorial field held its first baseball game.
Rocca and Froio have seen each other around, as expected in a small town, but hadn't really known each other too much. But they shared a bond: They knew the other had lost somebody they loved too soon.
"Both Nick and Billy were young residents in the town of Lanesborough whose lives we ended far too short at the ages of 17 and 23. Today marks the 29th anniversary of my brother's passing and Saturday, July 21, marked the 16th anniversary of Bill Laston's passing," Rocca said on Friday.
But they have now grown a little closer. When Rocca and her sister decided they wanted to memorialize their brother, they called Froio and William L. Laston to see if they would accept a donation at Laston Park in Kristensen's honor.
The Rocca family walked the property with the Lastons, who spend much of their time helping with maintenance and providing whatever the coaches need at the town's park, and they decided on benches.
On Friday, the Rocca family celebrated the installation of two new benches, one of which features a plaque recognizing Kristensen.
Kristensen will also have a place at Laston Memorial Park.
"These donations are important to sustain the park," Rocca said.
Froio said Laston Memorial Park is a memorial park not just for her son but to many who died. There are trees dedicated to individuals and now a bench. Even after a decade, the park continues to grow and donations continue to come in.
"It is overwhelming and amazing. Every year little things add to this park," Froio said.
Rocca, however, wasn't just bringing benches. She brought with her the Unistress Community Team, which installed a United Way bookhouse as well, a house that also features a photo of Laston. The book houses are mini-lending libraries for the area's youth. The intention is for somebody to take a book and leave a book.
"The bookhouses are part of our initiative to increase childhood literacy. I think this is our 52nd from the northern tip of Berkshire County to the southern tip of Berkshire County," said Duffy Judge of the United Way, who also went to school with Kristensen.
Unistress volunteers had not only refurbished the bookhouse, which used to be at the Dalton CRA until recently replaced for another memorial, but also placed the benches.
Though separated in time, Kristensen and Laston will now always have a permanent link to each other and to the community as Laston Memorial Park continues to grow and be the home of much enjoyment for Lanesborough's youth.
After the short ceremony came to an end and the crowd was mingling around the property, Froio looked over at a bench and a saw a family together reading a book, and she said that's what she loves to see. That is a memory created in the memorial park.
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