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Scout Plans Memorial Garden for Jim Callahan

Malverne resident Nick Santiago creates a garden in memory of the late Malverne deputy mayor for his Eagle Scout project.

In 1982, two years after John Lennon's shocking and untimely death at age 40, Elton John released a song in his memory called Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny). The "empty garden" is a metaphor for the emptiness Lennon's departure created in the lives of the people who knew him as well as the rest of the world.

Today, in Malverne, there is something similar happening.

Nick Santiago, 17, is building a real-life garden in memory of Malverne Deputy Mayor and Village Trustee Jim Callahan, whose untimely death at age 42 shocked the community this past May.

The garden will be planted at the Westwood train station in Malverne. The project will fulfill one of Santiago's requirements to achieve Eagle Scout status.

There are four steps to make the garden a reality: The first was to get the green light from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the property. Malverne Mayor Patti McDonald met with representatives of the MTA's LIRR and facilitated their approval.

The second step is raising the $1,600 needed to complete the garden as he envisions it. A good portion of the $1,200 he has amassed so far came from a garage sale held at the Malverne Historical Society on Sept. 17.

Neighbors, family, friends and colleagues of Santiago's mother, Elsie, a science teacher at Memorial Junior High School in Valley Stream, donated items for the sale.

Robert Powers, president of the Malverne Historical and Preservation Society, donated the $100 fee required for Santiago to hold the sale on the premises and invited other vendors who generally sell at the society's "Trash and Treasure" sales to attend. Each donated $25 to the cause.

The third step is to purchase and plant the flowers. Santiago's aunt, Carol Leonick, is a professional landscape designer and donated her services by drawing up a plan for the garden.

The fourth and final step is the unveiling ceremony which Santiago plans to hold sometime before the weather gets cold.

Santiago, a senior at Valley Stream North High School and a member of Troop 336 of Lynbrook, has been in scouts since first grade. His older brother, Ted, has already achieved Eagle Scout status and his younger brother, Steven, is in scouts as well.

Santiago never actually met Callahan, but he knows of his work as parks commissioner and deduced his memorial should be a garden.

Santiago says he plans to attend college "somewhere upstate," and study either engineering or law.

"It's ironic," he said. "People put lawyers with lying and being deceitful and as a Boy Scout you're trustworthy, loyal, helpful...you got to choose."

Donations can be made directly to Santiago. His phone number is (516) 459-5981.

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