A Virginia landscape architectural firm and a Midlothian family have helped to make a dream come true for an Annapolis, MD attorney and an Easton, MD woman whose respective families shared a unique vision for an iconic columbarium to be built on the grounds of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Easton on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
On Friday, Oct. 29, that shared vision became a reality when the columbarium (a place of repose for cremated remains) and an adjoining cemetery were dedicated and blessed by Bishop William Koenig of the Wilmington Catholic Diocese at a public event that began with a service at the church on S. Washington Street. Visitors to the ceremony, which numbered more than 700, were able to tour the columbarium and cemetery, as well as a new family life center and a new high school building.
The dedication ceremony completed a journey that had begun many years earlier when two longtime parishioners at the church, Edna and Joe Lynott, became concerned about the location of their final resting place after Joe became ill. Edna had shared her concerns with her close friend and maid of honor from some 60 years before, Carol Romeo of Midlothian, VA. Carol and her husband, Carmen, shared photographs of a lovely columbarium adjacent to their church that became the inspiration for the Easton, MD columbarium.
With her father in failing health, in 2018 the Lynott’s daughter, Pat Lynott Bonan, promised her parents she would do what she could to help make this vision a reality. To get started, she and her mother took a trip to Richmond in 2019 to see her parents’ original inspiration in person and meet with the general contractor of the original project, who happened to be the son of the Romeos, Tom Romeo. Tom was instrumental in helping the project along by sharing his experience and by introducing the two women to the landscape architect who had designed it, Craig Reichbauer of Reichbauer Studio, PLC.
While Bonan had interviewed several landscape architects from Boston to Virginia for this project, Reichbauer’s work convinced her and the church’s Pastor that he could design a project, and create a peaceful and unique space, for Saints Peter and Paul.
“As we were trying to get the approvals and trying to push this columbarium project forward, it certainly helped that we had a landscape architect who had done something similar and saw exactly what we were trying to do,” Bonan said. “In relatively short order, he came up with a beautiful plan. But I don’t think any of us thought it would be as beautiful as it has turned out to be.”
By then, Bonan had been joined in her efforts to get a new columbarium built at the Easton church by Annapolis, MD attorney Michael Milone. Coincidentally, Milone had also made a promise to his ailing father to get a columbarium built and the two teamed up after their fathers’ passing in 2018. They made a solemn commitment to see their respective parent’s vision become a reality.
Bonan’s dad Joe had previously assisted Easton resident Frank Milone (Michael’s dad) raise funds for the construction of the church that was completed in 2006. Frank served as chair of the Building Committee for Saints Peter and Paul.
“It was his third church,” Michael Milone said. “He was head of the building committees for two other parishes–Holy Family in Hillcrest Heights in the 1960’s and St. Mary’s Piscataway in the 1980’s. Dad always said Saints Peter and Paul was the most beautiful of the three because it really was the most free expression of the hearts of its parishioners.”
Construction of the $1.8 million columbarium began last March, leading to the project’s completion and Oct. 29 dedication ceremony.
The entire project was designed to be as much for the living as for the deceased, as a place of healing, Bonan noted.
“It is a garden that is intended to slow you down, sit, and make you think,” Bonan said. “There isn’t anything like it. This space is open to everyone, regardless of their denomination or religious affiliation, or where they are on their faith journey. It is a sacred place and a safe place for all.”
Reichbauer wholeheartedly agrees.
“Working with Saints Peter and Paul Parish has been an amazing journey,” Reichbauer said. “Creating spaces together as a team that invoke feelings of comfort and remembrance is truly one of the most rewarding experiences a landscape architect can participate in.
“The passion and care that Pat, Michael, and the entire design team brought to the project, drove the design to an extremely high level,” Reichbauer added. “It almost seemed to design itself. We all wanted this to be a very special place.”
The completed columbarium contains two sections. The Pavilion is a roofed structure that features a beautiful large stained glass window, designed by Edna Lynott and her artist daughter Maryellyn in conjunction with Lynchburg Stained Glass. The window is anchored by an altar-like ledge. The Pavilion will ultimately contain 168 niches for cremated remains. The Pavilion is entered from the Memorial Garden, which is a walled and gated open-air garden with blue stone walkways, pergolas for shade, teak benches, and features a unique water feature in the center of the garden.
“The bronze and copper fountain was imported from England and represents the tree of life,” Bonan pointed out. “The stained glass window is a beautiful representation of a sunrise or sunset on one of Maryland’s Eastern Shore rivers. It was designed intentionally to let the viewer interpret the design.”
The project also included the construction of a cemetery, built in two sections. The Pieta Garden is designated for flat monuments. It was so named because of the beautiful replica of Michalangelo’s statue of the same name which anchors a lovely brick walkway that runs down the middle of that section of the cemetery.
The Monument Garden is designated for raised monuments and features a long brick walkway that is anchored on one end by a patio for a yet-to-be selected statue and on the other end by another intimate garden that is currently under design by Reichbauer.
Annapolis, MD attorney Milone takes immense pride in knowing that his father Frank was the first person to be interred in the columbarium.
“In May 2018, we were sharing Oreo cookies at Easton Memorial Hospital and Dad asked me to do three things that were weighing on him,” Michael recalled. “He asked me to take care of my mother. He asked me to foster peace in the large family we have. And he asked me to build the columbarium.
“To a man who gave all of himself to those around him, I would never say no.” Michael continued. “I owed him sums I could never repay. I promised Dad on all three points, and I knew he would be watching.
“I do not have words to express how grateful I am that it all came together and that I was able to keep a promise to the greatest man I ever knew,” Michael added.
Anyone who wants additional information about the Saints Peter and Paul columbarium, including questions about purchasing a niche or a plot, can call (410) 822-2344 or email the church directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.