On Tuesday, August 15, Northampton Borough held a dedication ceremony at Northampton’s Canal Street Park for the Monarch Butterfly Waystation, which is located near the park’s gazebo.
Reverend Jerry Mraz, retired pastor of Holy Trinity Slovak Lutheran Church, spearheaded and funded the Monarch Butterfly Waystation project, which he first presented to Northampton Borough Council in October 2022, along with the formation of a beautification committee.
The project was designed by Lori Metz and officially broke ground in May.
The site now includes a display case with milkweed, eggs and caterpillars that people can watch turn into chrysalises and eventually butterflies, along with assorted nectar bearing perennial flowers around the display case for the butterflies after they are released, which Rev. Mraz described as a symbolism of Christian faith and resurrection.
The event was attended by various Northampton Borough Council members, Mayor Anthony Pristash, local Boy and Girl Scouts (whose responsibility it will be to maintain the waystation) along with their parents, troop leaders and members of the community, who were all eager to see the release of the monarch butterflies.
Before releasing two monarch butterflies, Rev. Mraz provided his inspiration for the project.
“Seven years ago, I lost two important people in my life,” he began.
In 2016, his wife, Elizabeth (Betty) Mraz passed away in February, and just five short months later his eldest granddaughter, Meagan Duarte, who shared the same October birthday as his late wife, also passed away. Meagan passed suddenly from spontaneous coronary artery dissection after giving birth to her second son just one month before her tragic passing.
Then, as Rev. Mraz, Meagan’s sister Kayla Karan and Kayla’s soon-to-be husband were walking out of the hospital on the day of Meagan’s passing, a monarch butterfly flew towards them and encircled them as they walked to their cars. As they departed, the monarch butterfly rose toward the sky and flew off.
That’s when Kayla expressed that the monarch butterfly must be her sister’s spirit.
Shortly after Meagan passed, Sharon Schell reached out to the family to offer condolences and provide them with a monarch caterpillar to help them as they grieved, which she refers to as her “butterfly ministry.” Unbeknownst to her, the family had already developed a spiritual connection with the monarch butterfly.
Miraculously, the day she delivered the caterpillar to the family, it began changing into a chrysalis right before their eyes.
“Two weeks later, a beautiful butterfly emerged from the chrysalis, which coincidentally was the day before Kayla was to be married. Kayla was able to release that special monarch at her wedding the following day, making the emotional connection to her sister,” Sharon shared.
“Sharon is the reason for all of this,” Rev. Mraz beamed.
Rev. Mraz also dedicated the waystation to his son-in-law’s sister, Dawn Lockard in addition to his wife and granddaughter, which stands as a living memorial to celebrate their lives.
Unfortunately, the monarch butterfly was recently designated as endangered based on the monarch population’s decline, which is due largely to the loss of milkweed habitats that caterpillars live off of. Therefore, the waystation also serves as a means to help the monarch butterfly population, with the hopes that it will inspire others to create something similar at other parks and even in their backyards.
Pa. State Rep. Zach Mako arrived later to witness the dedication ceremony and provide Rev. Mraz with a citation in honor of his 90th birthday, which Rev. Mraz celebrated on April 16.
The citation congratulated Rev. Mraz’ on the momentous occasion of his 90th birthday and recognized his contribution to the enrichment and betterment of succeeding generations through his wisdom and experience.
Both Rev. Mraz and Sharon hope that this Monarch Butterfly Waystation will serve as a first for others to consider replicating as a way of commemorating their loved ones in the future, in addition to the beauty, education, enthusiasm and comfort to the community that the waystation will bring every summer.