New set of steps placed to site of Joan D’Alessandro memorial

Though the 1973 murder of seven-year-old Stony Point resident Joan D’Alessandro will always be remembered as a tragedy, family and friends of the beloved Brownie scout are still determined to spread some light out of the situation over 50 years later.

One such family friend is Ernest Van Den Heuvel, an excavator who was 15 years old at the time of Joan’s murder and helped search for the girl at the time of her disappearance . For over 30 years, Van Den Heuvel has been tending the memorial to Joan in Harriman State Park, where killer Joseph McGowan placed her body between two boulders after the savage crime.

Recently, Van Den Heuvel utilized the help of some contractors and builder friends to place a set of stone steps down to the site. This act of service was done primarily for Joan’s mother, Rosemarie D’Alessandro, who had not been down the hill to the site of her daughter’s memorial in several years.

“(What happened) is like a cattle brand in my mind and in my heart,” said Van Den Heuvel, when reflecting on why he’s chosen to tend to the site all these years. “This impacted me more than anything in my whole life. I have a sister, and she’s a year younger than me. This affected everybody. When Joan was taken, there was an outpouring of love…Rosemarie said a while ago, ‘I’m not letting Joan be put on a shelf.’ I’m not letting her be, either.”

Last September, Van Den Heuvel (who comes to the site at least once a week) noticed that approximately 50 boulders had been dumped illegally by the J-shaped rock. Though he was initially angry, he ultimately used the smaller rocks to enhance the area, creating a kind of trail by the site. This, along with the recent addition of the stone steps, will allow more visitors to access the memorial and pay their respects to Joan.

“It’s my personal labor of love,” emphasized Van Den Heuvel. “I get to commune with Joan. She’s right here. Her spirit is here. You can hear her in the wind. It’s actually a very magical, spiritual spot for me and other people. It’s Joan—she’s in that rock. She’s like, ‘I’m right here!’ So I have to keep coming here to the people I love. And that’s really what this is—love for Joan and her whole family.”

Memorial to Joan

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