WESTFIELD – While 2020 will be remembered by all who survived the global pandemic, what Laurie Mandeville-Beaudette will remember most is it was the year her father died unnecessarily.
James E. Mandeville was among the 77 residents of the Soldiers’ Home at Holyoke who died from COVID-19 after residents and staff were not properly protected from the virus.
Mandeville served in the U.S. Navy from 1954-1958, during the Korean War and lived at the Home for more than 16 years. He died at the age of 83 on April 14, 2020 at Holyoke Medical Center.
“I was traumatized by my dad being stuck in the Soldiers’ Home during the lockdown,” said Mandeville-Beaudette. “It was horrific — staff were not available on a regular basis to FaceTime and I was worried sick about him.”
Mandeville-Beaudette is an active member of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Coalition and felt her father and the other residents who died last spring from COVID at the home should be memorialized.
Mandeville-Beaudette’s husband contacted his regional manager at Verizon to fundraise through the company and raised more than $1,400 to purchase memorial bricks bearing the name of the 77 Soldiers’ Home victims.
Where to lay the bricks was the next task to conquer, which is when Stanley Park came in.
Managing Director Robert McKean worked with Mandeville-Beaudette to have the bricks installed at the park, which already has a Veterans Memorial.
“We have memorial bricks for all those that passed up there,” said Mandeville-Beaudette. “It was my vision to have a bench and tree planted next to their memorial bricks.”
McKean said he was “humbled and honored anytime we can pay respect and honor to the true heroes and real patriots of our nation.”
“Our military gave so very much to all us citizens over many years and under the particular circumstance this will allow all comrades to be together in honor and all relatives and friends can visit, remember and thank them for all they did for us,” he said.
Mandeville-Beaudette said the veterans were all heroes who died unnecessarily and deserve to be remembered.
“This is important to me and my family to honor my dad and the other 76 veterans that died so brutally and needlessly. My dad made a lot of friends while he lived at the Soldiers’ Home, both residents and staff alike,” she said. “He was acutely aware of the staff shortage the last 6-10 years that he resided there and it bothered him greatly. He hated that the staff were so stressed out and exhausted all the time.”
Sheryl Blais, another family member of a COVID victim, worked with her on the project.
A check was presented May 21 to McKean at Stanley Park.
“We chose Stanley Park after we met Bob McKean at the Family Talks with Sen. John Velis several months ago at Stanley Park,” said Mandeville-Beaudette.