Jill’s Garden: A Little Slice of Heaven

A view of the lovely summer flowers in bloom in Jill’s Garden flowers at the entryway to the Meadowlands Environment Building at Richard W. DeKorte Park in Lynhurst N.J.

Regina Geoghan sent in this lovely written and photographical tribute to the Jill Ann Ziemkiewicz Memorial Butterfly Garden at DeKorte Park.The garden will be a focal point of activity on Butterfly Day this Sunday. We hope you can make it on Sunday, or any day, to enjoy this beautiful place of peace and tranquility.

It’s funny what a brief encounter with a complete stranger can set off in one’s mind.  As I was standing at the edge of Jill’s Garden ready to snap a photograph a few days ago, a young man began to walk into the space. When he noticed what I was doing, he stopped and waited while I took the shot and then continued on.  As he passed me, he smiled and said, “Isn’t this a great place – like a little slice of heaven.”  His words stuck in my mind, and so, this short tribute to one of the treasures of DeKorte Park and what it represents was born.

The garden is a lovely laboratory of the color and life of a pollinator environment. It is a nudge to stop and smell the flowers and make each moment count; an invitation to seek out and savor the moments of beauty and joy that are available to us.

A view of Jill’s Butterfly Garden at the entrance to the Environmental Center at Richard W. DeKorte Park in the NJ Meadowlands.

It is a place to wait and watch for the first monarch and other butterflies of the season to appear; to chuckle at the bumble bees competing for a flower’s nectar and the birds frolicking in the birdbath. It is a little haven for the pollinators that feed off the flowers growing there and so much more. Jill’sGarden is indeed, as it was intended to be, a pleasure patch where even a short visit can clear one’s mind of stress, sooth the soul and bring on a smile.

The garden was created out of love and purpose in the memory of Jill Ann Ziemkiewicz, a vibrant, young flight attendant who tragically lost her life along with so many others on July 17, 1996, when TWA flight 800 fell into the ocean off Long Island.  It was intended to reflect Jill’s love of people, nature and flowers, particularly sunflowers, and to be a central, welcoming, relaxing space for park visitors, especially children, to enjoy.

Today, 21 years later, the butterfly garden continues to thrive and fulfill its promise by bringing learning and pleasure to visitors, both human and wildlife alike. It is the focal point for many of the activities of the annual Butterfly Day held at DeKorte Park at the end of July.

As I think about that particular afternoon in the garden, when the warm glow of sundown light enhanced the colors and shapes of the flowers and shrubs and blue sky chased away clouds, it is quite easy to imagine  that Jill is beaming her pleasure down on the flowers, butterflies and other creatures that find sustenance there, and the people who stop to visit to enjoy the peace, tranquility and beauty of her special slice of heaven on earth.

Regina Geoghan

July  2017

Flowers in bloom at Jill’s Garden at Richard W. DeKorte Park NJ

View of Jill’s butterfly garden at the entrance to the Environmental Center at DeKorte Park in the NJ Meadowlands.


5 thoughts on “Jill’s Garden: A Little Slice of Heaven

  1. Lisa Cameron

    The garden was designed by Joanne DiLorenzo, Sr. Landscape Architect with the (then) New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. Bravo!

    1. Matt Ziemkiewicz

      Hi Alisha!
      I remember the design team used Jills landscape design themes and worked with her class mates to develop Jill’s Garden.

  2. Don Torino

    One of the reasons we started butterfly day was to pay tribute to Jill and her family ..we thought the best way to do that was to celebrate the butterflies of the meadowlands and bring thousands of people to this wonderful place ..Thanks Regina for reminding us of that

  3. Matt Ziemkiewicz

    Thank you for remembering. It means a lot to my Mom, me, and my family that Jill’s Garden continues to be that “little slice of heaven” and a true treasure in the meadowlands.
    We visit there often and happy that folks continue to enjoy that very special place and tribute to my sister.


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