Stewards of Margaret Ann Moon Memorial Garden

by Mark Matlock

Most of those associated with our school for more than a few years are aware of the contributions and driving force of a remarkable woman.

Margaret Ann Moon’s commitment to this institution and the vibrancy of a Catholic education helped St. Joseph’s rise from a house on Augusta Street to a strip shopping center on Washington Avenue to its present-day campus.

Such was the spirit embodied in the late Mrs. Moon. Part of her contributory life was also dedicated to gardening, a hobby she inherited from her aunt, Mary Berry Sutherland.

It is only fitting then that St. Joseph’s has named the beautiful courtyard located next to the John Paul II Center the Margaret Ann Moon Memorial Garden.

How the garden came to be goes back several years. Originally it was a green space that had fallen into a somewhat state of disrepair.

But with the renovation of the chapel under way, a new push emerged to make it special led by headmaster Keith Kiser. At the same time the chapel renovation was beginning to wind down in the autumn of 2014, Mrs. Moon was losing her battle against Parkinson’s Disease. She died on Dec. 13, 2014.

At the request of her widower, Joby, the decision was reached to inter Mrs. Moon’s ashes somewhere in the campus building. Mr. Kiser suggested the remains be placed in the garden.

Enter SJCS parent Macie Lawton. Together with Mr. Kiser, director of advancement Gina Turcotte and director of finance Ann O’Dea, it was decided to consult Macie Lawton’s father, JD, owner of Arbor Engineering. Their mission was to pick a spot where the ashes could be interred and craft future improvements to the garden.

Plans were drawn, and changes suggested by the class of 2015 including some of the back of a lunch napkin. After ironing out the financing of the project (some professional services were donated), local artist and sculptor Charlie Pate was commissioned to create a centerpiece of the garden.

But what to select as the subject of the sculpture? “When they talked to me about it, they had something in mind,” Mr. Pate said. “There’s a print of a painting of Joseph holding the infant or toddler Christ just as you walk in the school.”

That drawing was also a favorite of Mrs. Moon, so the choice was fairly easy. “I love that drawing,” said Mr. Pate. “My grandson and son-in-law were my models.”

With the approval of the school’s board of directors, attention turned in the spring of 2015 to the date for the dedication. One date stood out among all the others for Mr. Kiser: August 15. It was the date for the celebrating the Feast of the Assumption but it was also the 15th anniversary of the signing of the documents recognizing St. Joseph’s as a Catholic school by the archdiocese of Charleston.

There were many moving parts to bring this garden to fruition: SJCS parents Steve and Christine Barr (owners of Mountain Creek Nursery) donated the plants; McAfee Funeral Home worked with Arbor Engineering to work out the logistics of interring Mrs. Moon’s ashes; volunteers helped put the plants in the ground the weekend before the dedication; and parents and alumni who contributed to the project.

“Everyone coordinated and worked together so well on this project,” said Mrs. O’Dea. “It was a real testament to Margaret Ann’s spirit of willingness to answer God’s call.”

Each school day, students gather in the garden, weather permitting, to eat lunch, study, enjoy fellowship or perhaps simply reflect on the beauty of God’s creation.

“The garden is the absolute heart of the school,” said Joby Moon. “It means everything to me and my family. It’s a very spiritual place.”

And Mr. Moon added, “The garden was perfect place for her.”

It’s proving to be the same for all at St. Joseph’s Catholic School.