Friday, June 20, 2014
EASTHAMPTON — Standing on the Manhan Rail Trail where it runs by Millside Park, Elaine Wood pointed to a grassy spot where her late partner, Gary Biardi, used to don his roller blades before taking off down the trail for his regular five-mile jaunt.
Biardi died Nov. 23 at the age of 46 after a lifelong battle with depression. His family is awaiting the results of an autopsy.
During his life, Biardi was rarely happier than when he was cruising on the bike path or playing basketball at Millside Park, so Wood decided to raise funds for two memorial benches to be placed in the park — one facing the basketball court, one facing the path.
“I wanted to do something in his memory and both he and I had a love of music,” she said. She contacted several friends who are musicians and the bill for the Gary Biardi Memorial Concert was quickly full. “We had to turn people away,” she said.
The concert takes place Sunday from 4 to 8 p.m. at the park at 2 Ferry St. Bands playing include Eva Cappelli and the Watershops Band, the Ed Vadas Trio, Colorway, Scott Lawson Pomeroy, Dave Hayes and Rick Murnane, The Mighty Doug Pit, and Buddy.
Remembering her partner of four years by doing something for the community seemed like a fitting tribute, Wood said.
“He said it made him feel good to help people,” she said. When he was struggling with depression, he would perk up to work on projects like building a ramp for someone in a wheelchair or gutting someone’s house after a fire.
Wood herself is known around Easthampton for volunteering for community causes including the Community Emergency Response Team, the Red Cross, the Nashawannuck Pond Steering Committee and the Democratic party.
She donated most of Biardi’s clothes to the Easthampton Community Center, which was holding a drive for its Clothing Closet on the day of his funeral.
“I wanted something good to come from something bad,” she said. “A few weeks ago I saw someone wearing one of his shirts, and I had mixed feelings. I keep expecting to see him.”
Biardi grew up in Easthampton and, after earning an English degree from Clark University, worked various jobs. He was a published writer, a self-employed painter and handyman, and a bartender and waiter at numerous restaurants around the Valley, including the former La Piazza in Amherst or Zoe’s Fish House in Hadley. If he wasn’t working, Wood said, he was at the gym, rollerblading or playing basketball.
There is no cover charge for the Sunday’s event but donations are welcome. There will be raffle prizes including over $500 in gift certificates to local businesses and a hot air balloon ride for two valued at $500.
Wood said the benches will likely cost between $1,300 and $1,500 each and the Parks and Recreation Department has offered to donate the concrete bases for each.
For more information about the event, visit www.facebook.com/events/1493035434249094.
Rebecca Everett can be reached at email@example.com.