by KIM HILSENBECK
The name of the recently completed Now and Forever Memorial Tree Garden at Hays Hills Baptist Church in Buda has a special meaning for Sean Taylor of Buda. “Now and forever” is the phrase his grandparents, Carmen and Nancy Riviello, used to write on notes and sign on cards to each other.
They also had the words “now and forever” inscribed on their wedding rings.
This Sunday, Taylor, 29, will share the garden and memories of his grandfather with members of the church where he’s been a member since he was a child.
“We were very close,” Taylor said. “We shared the same June 4 birthday.”
A series of photos of Carmen and Nancy Riviello on a sign just before the bridge reveal that Taylor and his maternal grandfather also shared a similar stature—Riviello was about 5’ 6” before time and age intervened—and the same wide, warm smile.
In September 2011, four months after his grandfather Riviello passed away of a heart attack, Taylor began working on the project, which he said has been a labor of love. He completed it on June 30.
Tucked away in the wooded north side of the church’s property, Taylor spent evenings and weekends, and nearly $20,000 of his own money, toiling away to create the memorial garden he designed to honor his grandfather.
Taylor said when complete, it will have 12 trees found in the Bible, including the olive, date palm and fig, which he has planted in the garden. But many of the others, such as almond, poplar, bay, chestnut, white oak and cedar Lebanon, won’t be planted until the fall.
The trees are also significant for Taylor. He and his grandfather used to share conversations, some about Moosic, Pa., Riviello’s hometown, some about his time in the Army in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, and many about Riviello’s dream to create just such a garden with trees from the Bible.
A devoutly religious man, Riviello grew up in the Catholic church as part of a large family of Italian immigrant parents in Moosic, a coal-mining town just outside Scranton. He converted to Baptist after he married Nancy, the woman he remained with for 57 years and with whom he had three children, including Sean’s mother, Corrine Taylor.
Taylor said his grandmother, while still living, suffers from a rare form of dementia and has round-the-clock hospice care.
Visitors are welcomed to the garden across a 35-slat wooden bridge connecting the path to the garden gate. A heavy, ornate fence with a steel post gate allows a look inside. It’s flanked on either side by more steel and brick, which is one of the few materials Taylor didn’t have to purchase – the church donated the brick to the project. Pure white stones on both sides of the landscaping below contrast the black steel.
Once inside the gate, two crushed granite paths lead in opposite directions and loop around in a heart shape connecting at a fishpond that is the central focus of the garden. Inside are fish, including koi named Two Spot and Mr. Moto.
Two large hand-carved cedar benches sit on opposite sides of the pond. One has an inscription carved into the upper portion of the seatback saying “In Memory of Carmen and Nancy Riviello.”
Taylor hopes the garden will be used for everything from Sunday School classes to Easter sunrise services to weddings.
“I want people to enjoy it,” Taylor said.
The dedication ceremony for the Now and Forever Memorial Tree Garden is 10:30 a.m. Sunday, July 29 at Hays Hills Baptist Church in Buda. The public is welcome to attend.
For more information about the garden and photos of its progression, visit Taylor’s website of the project, www.nowandforevergraden.com.