In July of last year a boat cruise on the Hudson River in New York turned into a tragedy for Lindsey Stewart, a bride-to-be, and Mark Lennon, who was due to serve as best man at the wedding. Lennon and Stewart were killed when the recreational speedboat in which they were traveling collided with a poorly lit construction barge due to the actions of the intoxicated boat driver, who is now facing multiple charges.
Lindsey and Mark were ejected from the boat. Their bodies were recovered in the following days. Four others were badly injured in the accident, including Lindsey’s fiancé, Brian.
Almost one year on from the horrific tragedy that claimed two lives, both families are rebuilding and trying to put a focus on the future, which they hope will include the construction of a new lighthouse in the Hudson River as a homage to the innocent lives lost last year.
Ray Lennon, who lost his brother Mark in the accident, spoke to the Irish Voice about how his Irish family is coping with the aftermath of losing a treasured son and brother.
“A lot of our focus is now on a memorial and what the lighthouse represents. A lighthouse represents a glimmer of hope to us and also a beacon of light to remember what happened here but going forward to help the community in the future,” Lennon said.
Lennon and his brother Mark were born in New York to Irish parents, Kevin and Dympna, who are originally from Co. Longford. Kevin Lennon is very active in local Longford GAA circles and works as a carpenter in New York.
“The year has been very difficult for both families but we are trying to put some good into this situation. We are all rallying around this lighthouse,” said Lennon.
Dympna Lennon now spends much of her time doting on her three grandchildren which has been a huge comfort to her in the grieving process. Lennon says his parents returned to Ireland briefly last year, but the trip was just to get away for a little while as New York has been their home since the 1970s.
A major fundraiser to benefit the Lindsey Stewart and Mark Lennon Memorial Fund will be held on Sunday, May 18 at the Holiday Inn in Orangeburg, NY.
“We anticipate more than 250 people from the Rockland/Westchester area will gather for the evening to help us raise money to build a beacon of light and help to provide the necessary safety measures that are much needed in the Hudson River during one of the largest bridge projects of the century,” said Lennon.
“The goal of our fund is to build a lighthouse for Rockland County to aid boaters navigating the Hudson River. Additionally, funds will be provided to meaningful causes in their memories within Rockland County such as boating safety courses and other charitable endeavors.”
Mark Lennon was 30 when he died; Stewart was the same age. She was due to be married the following week to Brian Bond who also suffered injuries in the accident.
The hope now is that a lighthouse in their names will be a symbol of the future, having the potential to guide those on the water home safely.
The lighthouse has been given preliminary approval by the Coast Guard which has been a major factor. The entire project may take around eight years to complete, but the main phase would hopefully be ready by 2017.
“Through the memorial fund, we aim to be able to fund the entire project ourselves, taking the entire burden off the Village of Piermont. We have put together a preliminary budget that falls in the range of $125,000,” Lennon said.
“The outpouring of love and support for both families has been amazing in the wake of such tragedy and now with the foundation for the lighthouse moving forward, it’s a new focus for the future.
“The support within the Irish American community is a very unique thing. Everyone has rallied around us and now more than ever can we feel that sense of community around this project.”
The memorial fund is now connected to the Rockland Community Foundation, and all donations are tax deductible.
For information about the fundraiser next month or the memorial fund, call Ray Lennon at 845-558-8966, Carol Stewart at 845-304-3001, or Brian Bond at 914-661-0884.