Couple who lost daughter in 1994 shows ‘Riverhead cares’ after Newtown

12/21/2012 5:00 PM |
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Joe and Roe Czaluda's memorial to the Sandy Hook victims on their front lawn on Sunrise Avenue in Riverhead.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Joe and Roe Czulada’s memorial to the Sandy Hook victims on their front lawn on Sunrise Avenue in Riverhead.

While most Americans watched or listened to the horror unfold in Connecticut last week and the days after the Newtown shootings, one Riverhead couple went outside and got to work.

Joe and Roe Czulada, who raised four children in their home on Sunrise Avenue, lost one of those children 18 years ago when a drunken boater killed their daughter Jill while she was swimming in Flanders Bay.

Jill was just 21 years old.

“She would have been 40 years old on Tuesday,” Ms. Czulada said this week. “On Monday I was listening to one mother talk about what happened in Connecticut and I just cried and told my husband, ‘We have to do something.’”

What they did Thursday was erect a memorial for the “Newtown Angels” on their front lawn.

There, 27 crosses with names written across them sit in rows within a flower box on the lawn, 26 of them for the victims of the Newtown massacre. One cross is for Jill.

Next to the memorial is a lit-up angel whose wings electronically flutter.

“We’re just as sad as everybody in the world,” Ms. Czulada said. “But until you walk in their shoes, you don’t know what it’s like to lose your child.”

The memorial is meant to show “Riverhead cares,” Ms. Czulada said.

She’s learned from experience that while the pain can be eased, it won’t ever go away.

“There is no closure,” she said of the lingering thoughts of Jill, adding that she prefers it that way.

“I don’t want there to be closure,” she said. “I don’t want to forget her.”

gvolpe@timesreview.com

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