By Dan Russo
KEY WEST — An “Angel of Hope” memorial statue to commemorate babies and young children who have died has recently been installed in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Key West, with a formal dedicated ceremony slated for 1 p.m. Oct. 1.
The public is invited to attend the event, which will include a prayer service led by Msgr. Jim Miller, pastor of Nativity Parish in Dubuque.
Angel of Hope statues are an international phenomenon inspired by the book “The Christmas Box.” The 1993 novel is about a woman who mourns the loss of her child at the base of an angel statue. The angel has the word “hope” on one of its wings. Parents who had lost a child in Salt Lake City, Utah, asked for a monument matching the description of the angel in the book. Author Richard Paul Evans paid for the project. The statues began to spread. There are over 120 in cities worldwide, including on the campus of Xavier Catholic High School in Cedar Rapids. Xavier graduate Kylie DeWees led the fundraising effort to place a statue dedicated in 2014.
The Dubuque area statue was sponsored by members of the Dubuque Tri-State Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss organization and Compassionate Friends, two groups that help families who have lost children.
Betty Weber, a leading member of Share, is a retired neonatal intensive care nurse who worked at Mercy Hospital in Dubuque. She has a personal connection to the cause.
“I worked in OB all my years and saw lots of families who lost their babies,” she reflected.
Then in 1990, her own daughter lost a premature baby, and Weber has also experienced the loss of an adult son.
Weber has been involved in comforting grieving parents for many years through Share, which focuses on helping anyone who has lost a child to miscarriage, stillbirth or for other reasons. The sponsors raised over $14,500 for the project through a variety of fundraisers.
The Angel of Hope statue was recently installed at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Key West. (Contributed photo)