Two Irvington Teens Honor Beloved Residents With ‘The Legacy Project’

Lexi Weintraub and Sharon Draytsel in Scenic Hudson Park

Lexi Weintraub recalled the day that her mother took her best friend Sharon Draytsel and her to the Scenic Hudson Park on a beautiful afternoon back in 2017. She described how they were planning to visit the memorial stone that honored the passing of their classmate Evan Panjwani’s mother Kim, but were shocked at how difficult it was for them to locate her stone. The pair reasoned that if this happened to them, it was likely that other visitors had a hard time locating their family’s memorial stones as well.

This instance truly resonated with the girls and had them thinking about how often the memorial stones get overlooked in the park. They felt that the stones should be recognized not only within their community, but by friends and family who wished to commemorate their loved ones from around the world.

The pair soon began thinking of ways that this feat could become possible and agreed that creating an online web page for Irvington residents who honored their loved ones with stones and trees could work. In this way, the people from all over would be able to enhance their family memorials with the use of photographs and personalized biographies. “We wanted something that would be easily accessible to everyone and the Internet is a great way to make that happen,” said Draytsel.

Weintraub and Draytsel decided to call their plan ‘The Legacy Project’ and reached out to the Superintendent of Parks and Recreation, Joe Archino. Archino then forwarded the girls’ message to Laura Coapman and Mike Dinardo of the Parks and Recreation. “We worked in collaboration with the Recreation department to gain access to all of the records and addresses of the stone donors and we truly could not do this project without their help,” stressed Weintraub.

“We then wrote a letter to all of the stone donors to let them know that this project exists and if they would like to be a part of it,” said Weintraub. If the donors wanted to become a part of “The Legacy Project,’ they were required to send back the letter with a biography about the person that they commemorated. “This way it was more personalized, rather than just being a name on a stone,” added Weintraub.

Although the girls stayed hopeful that their project would take off, they admitted that it took longer than anticipated. Weintraub described the process as “coming in waves” over the course of almost two years. “The most challenging part of the project was getting approval from everyone… it took awhile,” added Draytsel. Nevertheless, the pair were determined to stay on track.

Finally, this April, the girls began receiving responses from the families that they reached out to. From there, they photographed the memorial plaques in the Scenic Hudson Park and posted the pictures as well as each family’s additional thoughts on the web page. “Along with the biographies, Sharon and I received several personal notes telling us that this project is beautiful and thanking us for it,” said Weintraub.

Weintraub and Draytsel’s friendship definitely contributed to the success of their project. “Lexi and I have known each other for a long time, we know each other’s work ethic and we kept each other organized,” said Draytsel. The girls were determined to get their project up and running no matter how long it took or what obstacles came their way.

The pair had a desire to bring the community together and they certainly accomplished this through the creation of “The Legacy Project.” Through the utilization of new technology, Weintraub and Draytsel have succeeded in honoring beloved members of Irvington as well as from outside the town. In the future, the pair plan to keep up with adding memorials to their web page and are confident that more people will contribute to their project.

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About the Author: Rebeccah Worth