Cloudy skies and a light drizzle could not dampen the mood at Westwood Park last Saturday. Roughly 100 people — state officials, residents, community activists and officers from the Malverne Police Department — gathered at the park as the Steven McDonald Memorial Corporation broke ground on its Garden of Forgiveness.
The garden recognizes the life, service, sacrifice and family of McDonald, who was shot in 1986 in Central Park and left paralyzed until his death nearly 31 years later, in January 2017, at age 59. The memorial corporation was founded in March by members of the Malverne Chamber of Commerce, the Civic Association and the Rotary Club, which sought to find a way to honor McDonald.
“It’s not just to reflect on Steven’s memory, but it’s for anyone to come here who needs to find peace, and maybe anyone who needs to find forgiveness,” said Village Clerk Terry Emmel, one of the corporation’s members.
Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick, another member of the corporation, described the garden as a place where future generations can learn about McDonald’s message of faith and forgiveness. She said that his life could have gone in many directions, but because he chose to take the “ultimate” high road, it is important for people never to forget his lessons.
“His life was filled with purpose and resolve to make sure people knew his story and to learn what it truly means to forgive,” Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick said. “With the crazy world that we live in, a meditation garden is a great thing for all of us to have. It’s just so incredible that everybody’s here to support Steven as well as the mayor.”
Malverne Mayor Patti Ann McDonald, who married Steven just months before he was shot, was moved to tears as she thanked residents and the memorial corporation during the groundbreaking ceremony.
“It was overwhelming, and it just warmed my heart to see that so many people came out, especially with the weather,” McDonald told the Herald. “Steven loved this village. He could’ve picked any place to live, but he wanted Malverne. He loved the people, and today is just another example of that.”
McDonald’s son, NYPD Sgt. Conor McDonald, echoed his mother’s sentiments about the large turnout.
“Nothing is enough to tell you how grateful I am for your love and support and for your loyalty to my mother and father,” Conor said. “I’ve been to a lot of places, but nothing compares to Malverne.”
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky said that he still reflects on many of the conversations he had with McDonald, and that having a garden to honor him is a fitting tribute for the village.
“No one is more synonymous with Malverne than Steven McDonald,” Kaminsky said. “His heart and soul and what he represented is also the heart and soul of this great community.”
“I don’t think there’s really ever been a time in our nation’s history where forgiveness, our faith and family, could be as important as it is now,” said Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito. “There is no other police department here in this world that could say they have a hero and they have a warrior like Steven McDonald.”
The Steven McDonald Memorial Corporation estimated that the creation of the Garden of Forgiveness would cost roughly $75,000. In addition, corporation officials said they hoped that through donations, a scholarship fund could be established. The corporation will host a fundraiser at Maier’s Brick Café in Lynbrook on Oct. 28, from 1 to 4 p.m. Tickets, which cost $50, will be available at Malverne Village Hall, or residents can call (516) 680-1220.
Those interested in contributing to funds for the Garden of Forgiveness can go to bit.ly/2RCAxgh.