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40th anniversary candlelight vigil tonight for Joan D’Alessandro in Hillsdale

Photo Credit: below
Photo Credit: below
Photo Credit: below
Photo Credit: below

A candlelight vigil will be held tonight in the center of Hillsdale in remembrance of Joan D’Alessandro, the 7-year-old Brownie Scout slain by a neighbor 40 years ago yesterday as she sold cookies door-to-door.

Speakers will tell Joan’s story — among them, her proud, caring, giving mother, Rosemarie D’Alessandro — during the 7 p.m. commemoration at Veteran’s Park. A police caravan will honor Joan’s memory. The song “White Butterfly,” dedicated to her, will be played.

Attendees will also see renderings of a proposed white butterfly sculpture and garden, which is planned for the Hillsdale train station.

D’Alessandro is hoping to raise enough money to build the sculpture garden as a lasting symbol of protection of our children.

The sculpture will join the flagpole and sign in front of the train station ( see photo, below ) and have a carving of a white butterfly and a plaque with Joan’s photo, along with a nearby butterfly bench.


WHAT: 40th Anniversary Candlelight Vigil, 1973-2013
WHEN: Mon., April 22 (7 – 9 p.m.)
RAIN DATE: Fri., April 26
WHERE: Veterans Park, Broadway, Hillsdale

The white butterfly was chosen, D’Alessandro said, because it symbolizes Joan’s “joyful and free spirit, giving hope to many.”

The unveiling is planned for Saturday, Sept. 7, Joan’s birthday.

Sponsorships are available and donations are requested. Go to www.JoansJoy.org for more information, or contact Rosemarie directly: (201) 664-9140 / rosebd@email.com

The memorial, like Monday’s event, is being organized by Joan Angela D’Alessandro Memorial Foundation — also known as “Joan’s Joy” — which Rosemarie established to help youngsters and raise awareness of child safety issues.

“Her life and death inspired a movement to keep her killer in prison and spurred law changes,” Rosemarie told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “Joan’s legacy is more alive today than it ever was. It is a force for good in today’s society.”

Joseph McGowan, a former high school science teacher, was convicted of raping and murdering Joan on April 19, 1973 (Holy Thursday), before dumping her body in Harriman State Park, where it was found on Easter.

The youngster had come to McGowan’s home, three doors down, looking to sell her last two boxes of cookies.

Her murder prompted the passage of Joan’s Law, signed by Gov. Christie Whitman in 1997 and by President Clinton in 1998. It mandates life in prison for the killing of children under 14 during a sex crime.

Because it was adopted after McGowan was sentenced, the law doesn’t apply to him. But he remains in prison for his crimes, having repeatedly been denied parole.

Meanwhile, Rosemarie D’Alessandro has made helping other parents and abused children her life’s mission.

“Inside I knew great things were going to come out of Joan’s life because of the special energy she had, and has, and the fact that she was found on Easter Sunday,” she once told me.

Helping others, she said, “is why I was put on this earth.”

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