Families seek to 'cast a light' with memorial project
NANUET — Just days after holding funerals for friends Mark Lennon and Lindsey Stewart, their families are coming together in a unique effort to ensure more lives aren’t lost in the dark waters of the Hudson River.
They are launching a memorial fund this week to raise money for a new, hopefully fully functioning lighthouse that would be built at the same marina where Lennon, Stewart, her groom-to-be and three acquaintances embarked on a late-night powerboat ride July 26 that ended with a crash into a construction barge for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project.
“Nobody saw that barge,” Stewart’s mother Carol Stewart-Kosik told The Journal News Tuesday. “If this could cast a light or shadow on the river, maybe it will not just memorialize them but save other lives, so that they didn’t die in vain in the dark.”
She was joined by Lennon’s brother, Raymond Lennon, during the interview at her house in Nanuet. They were brainstorming ideas for a Web page that will promote the fundraising effort, called the Lindsey Stewart and Mark Lennon Memorial Fund.
They were also preparing for a painful weekend ahead: This Saturday is the day Stewart was planning to marry her childhood sweetheart, Brian Bond, 35, of Pearl River, another passenger on the boat. Mark Lennon, 30, was going to be Bond’s best man.
“The day is going to be hell for us,” Stewart-Kosik said, sitting on her couch with Raymond Lennon, scrolling through the Web template on a laptop that will include photos and narratives about Steward and Mark Lennon. “We’re just going to surround ourselves with family.”
As they detailed their efforts to preserve a legacy for their loved ones, they spoke more about the horrifying crash and its aftermath.
Both families have hired lawyers and are considering litigation to determine what went wrong and possibly hold people responsible for the deaths.
Police have charged the boat’s driver, Jojo John, 35, of Nyack, with vehicular manslaughter and accused him of drunken boating.
The Stewart and Lennon families released a statement last week saying that, because of poor lighting, no one on the boat could see the barge as they approached it. They also said there has been a rush to blame the skipper, even though official blood tests have yet to be completed.
They expanded on their remarks during Tuesday’s interview.
“There were five other people on that boat that didn’t see the barge,” Raymond Lennon said. “That’s enough indication of how this accident came about.”
“They’re adults,” added Stewart-Kosik. “They don’t just jump on a boat with someone who is intoxicated, knowingly.”
Still, as they await the blood results, they’re reserving judgment on John, a former co-worker of Mark Lennon.
“I can’t form an opinion because I don’t know the facts,” Stewart-Kosik said.
Raymond Lennon said the lighthouse idea came the same weekend the bodies were recovered. He was attending a service at St. John the Baptist Church in Piermont, where the Rev. George Torok sermonized about a lighthouse that would shine as a beacon of light to the victims.
Stewart-Kosik then spoke with Audrey Schneider, the owner of the Tappan Zee Marina and the landlady of Stewart and Bond, who rented an apartment at the marina. Schneider offered to donate space there for the structure.
“Our intention is to memorialize two young people who were killed on the river,” Stewart-Kosik added.
Her husband, Walter Kosik, said, “The lighthouse is part of our healing process.”
They recognize, however, that the costly project would require a long approval process. It’s uncertain whether this could become a fully operational lighthouse or more of a memorial.
“We’re not putting shovels to the ground now,” Raymond Lennon said.
On Tuesday, Stewart-Kosik visited her daughter’s workplace at Presidential Life Insurance in Nyack, where co-workers had covered her desk with flowers and notes as a shrine.
Then she returned home, where she contemplated what to write about her daughter for the fundraising website.
“Every day she lived life to the fullest,” Stewart-Kosik said of her daughter. “She not only loved life, she loved her life.”