SHOUT OUT: The unveiling of a sculpture and garden dedicated to the memory of a 7-year-old Brownie Scout killed by a neighbor is set for a week from this Thursday at the Hillsdale train station.
A green tarp will be removed, revealing the butterfly statute honoring Joan D’Alessandro, amid music, table displays and some remarks during what will be the 17th anniversary of Joan’s Law being signed in New Jersey, said her mother, Rosemarie.
Both the sculpture and garden will be “lasting symbols of the need to protect our children while remembering Joan,” Rosemarie D’Alessandro told CLIFFVIEW PILOT after breaking ground last week.
The 5,670-pound sculpture will join the flagpole and sign in front of the train station and have a carving of a white butterfly and a plaque with Joan’s photo, along with a nearby butterfly bench.
The garden “will be a work in progress through November,” D’Alessandro added.
The white butterfly was chosen because it symbolizes Joan’s “joyful and free spirit, giving hope to many,” she said.
D’Alessandro had hoped to stage the unveiling for Joan’s birthday last September. But there was a bit of back-and-forth over the wording with local officials, some of whom deemed the original language too graphic.
Besides referring to the “heinous crime” responsible for Joan’s death, the plaque will list the laws passed that guarantee life in prison for those who kill children 14 or under during a sex crime — with a space left for what is hoped will be a measure to extend the law to victims under 18.
“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.
The project is funded by the Joan Angela D’Alessandro Foundation — also known as “Joan’s Joy” — which she established to help youngsters and raise awareness of child safety issues.
TO CONTRIBUTE: The Joan Angela D’Alessandro Foundation , 45 Florence St., Hillsdale, (201) 664-9140 OR: Rosebd@email.com
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