A year after his untimely death at 57, Joe Tagliarini found a little immortality – even though for many people, Joe had already left his mark in the hearts of the community. He was someone most people loved the moment they met him.
All Saints Catholic Academy began a schoolyard garden earlier this year, and paused in its usual activities on the anniversary of his death to name the garden after him.
Even though he didn’t have children attending the school, Joe Tagliarini was on the Board of Trustees and took an active part in making certain that the city’s only parochial school thrived.
He lived across the street from the school and could not help but see the kids playing in the school yard or coming to and from school every day, any time he looked out his front window.
His family still lives there.
Tagliarini, as Mayor Mark Smith aptly pointed out during a brief dedication ceremony, was deeply involved in the Bayonne community. The owner of J & J printing company for more than 30 years, he got involved in nearly every aspect of community life, from sitting on the boards of prominent institutions to dealing with the day-to-day needs of ordinary people. Only 57 at the time, Tagliareni was out hunting with his brothers when he was struck by a sudden heart attack.
“He loved the outdoors,” Smith said. “And it is a fitting tribute that this garden be named after him.”
But Smith said the garden became a symbol of what Tagliarini was about.
“He always believed in do for others before self,” Smith said. “He set an example on how to live life, and it is important that he be remembered, and he will be remembered through this garden.”
Councilwoman Debra Czerwienski said she grew up with Tagliarini and she knew what a great human being he was.
“He loved the outdoors. And it is a fitting tribute that this garden be named after him.” – Mayor Mark Smith
Although the school officially launched the garden last June, many of the students leapt into the project as early as last December, aided by Bayonne-based program Rock n’ Renew, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching students, schools, businesses and artists to learn how to live a sustainable life.
Student hands planted and nurtured the various varieties of flowers, herbs and vegetables that would blossom later in the year.
Principal Joseph Moran said he was particularly fond of the peppers, among many of the vegetables that the garden produced.
“They really got into this,” Moran said. “They got their hands dirty and they grew a lot of wonderful things.”
Catherine Moran, member of the school’s marketing committee, said, “As it evolves, the garden will become a hands-on living laboratory for students to learn about gardening, ecology, sustainability and big issues like mapping climate change through global vegetation.”
Marie Minerley, science teacher, said the garden became a laboratory that allowed students to learn about the cycles of plant life from seed to harvest, and that some items would allow them to move into areas of study such as food science, with which the students learned to make pesto. Students also tilled earth and watered the plants partly with rain collected in barrels, which they painted. They even helped construct the boxes in which they later planted herbs.
This garden evolved out of studies that began in earnest during the heart of last winter, February into March, when they learned about plants, trees, and shrubs.
The garden promoted a higher quality of learning that allowed students to learn through doing, and incorporated a number of subjects such as science, mathematics, language arts, environmental studies, and health. They learned about the cycles of life, wrote about their experiences, learned to equate time and measurements, used their artistic talents to decorate, and came to understand the health benefits of natural foods. And, perhaps most importantly, students learned to take ownership of the garden and responsibility for it.
Bountiful and beautiful
During the year, they planted things such as spearmint, rosemary, thyme, beets, eggplant, chili pepper, sage, brussel sprouts, strawberries, numerous flowers and other plants. Some grew better than others, and during the height of summer, sunflowers loomed over the whole garden.
“Some of us started last December,” said sixth grader Sarah Delaney. “We planted little seeds and seedlings and then we built a box.”
During the summer after school let out, some of the parents came to the school grounds to help out with watering.
For Delaney, it was a thrilling experience, and something that seemed to help increase her interest in teaching.
Eugene Keohane, a seventh grader, said he also began with the garden project last December.
“It was amazing to see the plants grow day by day,” he said, noting that his family had known Tagliarini. “I knew he was a good man and that he always helped people out.”
William Kelly, a sixth grader, was also amazed by how things grew.
Lori Galla and Michele Wolenski were two of the parents involved in the garden project. Wolenski, an artist, even designed the poster that stands in lobby of the school promoting the garden project.
“This was something that brought the school community together,” Wolenski said. “Parents, teachers, and students all got involved.”