On Sept. 9, Jake Albanesa, an 8th grader at Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School, tragically lost his good friend, 13-year-old Jacob Aversa to a heart attack. Several months later, he's decided to honor Jacob's memory by creating a holiday memorial at his family's 19 Larchmont Drive home in Coventry.
Jake, who had been friends with Jacob since first grade was considering creating a tribute board for the front lawn, when another Coventry resident's holiday fundraising tactic inspired him to kick it up a notch.
Around Christmas, Jake and his family frequent the Crazy Christmas House light display and donation collection at 9 Blue Spruce Drive in Coventry, created annually by resident Tyler Horrocks. The family tradition led to a small synchronized light and music display that Jake created last year for his family, and emboldened him to go bigger and better this year, in honor of Jacob.
In addition to the lively Christmas music and multi-colored lights, Jake has been busy creating new props for his display since October including lighted arches and a "mega" tree constructed with a metal pole and strings of lights. So far this year he estimated the display's light count at about 6,000 bulbs
The most important addition to this year's display is "Jacob's Tree", a Christmas tree decorated with purple lights and ornaments in honor of Jacob's favorite and signature color, accompanied by a handmade sign that reads "In Memory of Jacob Aversa", which Jake hopes is signed by anyone who would like to honor his lost friend.
As a way to heal and cope with Jacob's death, visitors have been adding their own purple ornaments to the tree, and have also begun to fill a donation box to be personally delivered to the Aversa family on Christmas Eve.
"Jacob's family has come to my display and talked to me about it and they're very happy to see him remembered this way," said Jake. "I've known them for a long time and I'm glad to be able to help them cope even a little bit."
Jake's mom, Liz Albanesa, said she couldn't be more proud of her son, who maintains a rigorous hockey schedule, a social life and his status as an honor student at ASFMS, all while designing and creating his festive Christmas display and touching memorial.
"Setting up the display took him hours each day and he bought his supplies with his own money," she said. "I'm so proud of him and love his spirit."
Jake will light his display from about 5 p.m. each night until about 9:30 p.m. through New Year's Day, and will keep it on for a full 24 hours beginning Christmas Eve.