Tree planting memorializes late alumnus

By Brandon Desiderio
October 12, 2011

A European Larch tree was planted in front of Founder’s Hall to honor alumnus Corey Salazar.

The  life of ‘02 alumnus Corey Salazar, who had been working in the Holy Spirit Library since 2004, was examined and reflected upon by current students and faculty with a tree-planting ceremony dedicated in his honor. Diagnosed with brain cancer in June, Salazar died of the disease on Aug. 5. Among the attendees were his fiancee, Kathleen Grant, a fellow Cabrini alumna of the class of 2007, as well as his brother Richard.

Several students, faculty and staff who had known Salazar spoke at the ceremony, held on Sept. 30, including philosophy department chair Dr. Sharon Schwarze, who taught Salazar while he was an undergraduate.

“Corey was not a quiet introvert,” Schwarze  said. The crowd laughed in response. She spoke of her frequent “motherly” conversations with Salazar, which she said he would pretend to listen to. “He was usually practicing the ‘core value of community,’” Schwarze continued, making light of the present situation. More laughter.

“We all have to take Corey’s lesson to heart and realize that we all can make the world a little bit better,” Schwarze concluded, stepping from the podium. Aside from his lighthearted personality, Salazar was known for his generous spirit, having contributed a lot of his time to volunteer work and other acts of goodwill.

The tree that was planted in Salazar’s memory, as Dr. Marie Angelella George explained during the beginning of the ceremony, is what is known as a European Larch. “It is said to house the blessed ones,” George said. “In Siberia, a group of seven or more trees is considered holy.” As a symbol of Salazar’s passing, the Larch was chosen due to the belief that spirits climb them toward heaven, as they are considered the “World Tree.”

“Corey’s soul, in all respects, is a beautiful soul,” George said.

“Ask Corey any question, and you’d get more information than you ever needed,” Dr. Bobbi Jacquet, the library director for Holy Spirit Library, said. In addition to his love of reading history, as she addressed, Salazar would also talk about the vast assortment of trees on Cabrini’s campus whenever someone would come in and comment on how beautiful the campus was, as well as show off the campus tree map.

Both Grant and Richard Salazar said they wanted to thank the Cabrini community for holding the tree-planting ceremony in honor of Corey’s recent passing, as well as his integral role in the college’s identity and mission from the heart.

Richard, who introduced himself simply as Rick, particularly wanted to signify the fact that he and his brother were raised by a strong woman. Their mother, Diane O’Connor Salazar, was a research chemist and raised her sons entirely on her own after divorcing her husband while they were still young. Diane herself had battled cancer and Corey had been her primary caregiver up until her death in 1998.

“There’s a story of St. Jerome taking a thorn out of a lion’s paw,” Jacquet mentioned after the ceremony. “I think that is particularly significant, since, at the end, Corey and Kathleen had cats.”

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Brandon Desiderio

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