Rima Samman lost her 41-year-old brother to COVID and couldn’t have a funeral. So she did what she could. She wrote his name on a small rock and planned on placing it on the beach in Belmar in the natural beauty of the shore beside the eternal grandeur of the ocean.

She asked on social media if anyone else who had lost someone to COVID would like their name on other stones. She had no idea that what started a few months ago would turn into a massive display of memorial stones inside 11 yellow hearts made of painted clamshells.

It’s grown to about 2,000 victim’s names and draws dozens of people a day. In March a vigil was attended by hundreds.

But it’s on the beach and Memorial Day is coming. Belmar has to get the beach ready for tourists. Besides, the elements are starting to get to the stones. Now a search is on for a place to move this touching tribute to those who died of COVID but so far no permanent home has been secured.

The Monmouth County Historical Association said they could store it but could not display it. The Belmar Arts Council said they could display it but only less than a third of it. Rotary Club volunteers are ready to move the memorial stones if a place could just be found.

Lorraine Jacobs also lost a loved one whose name is on one of those stones. She doesn’t want to see the display broken up and discarded. So she’s started a Change.org petition asking for help from Gov. Murphy in saving the memorial.

The petition points out that since the pandemic struck New Jersey had more than 25,000 died from COVID-19. Many of those loved ones were not allowed to gather for funerals and these rock memorials are all they had.

It’s gotten almost a thousand signatures already. If you’d like to send a message to Gov. Murphy that this memorial needs to be moved and preserved you can find the petition here.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.

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