Memorial tree part of proposed new program in Smithfield

Memorial tree part of proposed new program in Smithfield

David Mancini’s memorial tree at the Smithfield Senior Center, complete with plaque and a ring of flowers, brings comfort to his partner, Paul Zompa.

SMITHFIELD – A white river birch tree surrounded by perennial flowers outside the Smithfield Senior Center, at 1 William J. Hawkins Jr. Trail, represents comfort for Paul Zompa as a memorial for his partner of 31 years, David Mancini.

Mancini died on March 26, 2019, after a three-year battle with lung cancer. Through all the operations, procedures, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Zompa remained by Mancini’s side.

“You really start to realize love when you lose it. You think you know, but you don’t know until you lose it. When you lose it, you learn,” Zompa said.

Mancini’s family members in Wisconsin reached out to Zompa in February, offering to purchase a gift of a memorial tree in Mancini’s honor. Zompa’s sister-in-law knew of a memorial program in her area, reaching out to Smithfield Parks and Recreation Director Robert Caine to see if there was one here.

Though Smithfield does not have a memorial program, Caine expressed interest in beginning one, and helped Zompa and Mancini’s relatives plant trees in Mancini’s honor.

Caine is working with Town Manager Randy Rossi to bring a program to Smithfield and said there are many moving parts to figure out before a plan can be brought to the Town Council. He said the program can be a win-win for the town, but he wants to solidify policies such as planting locations, who purchases the tree, and warranties before moving more projects forward.

“I said we don’t have a policy together for something like this yet. I figured let’s do this and figure it out later,” Caine said.

Caine added that he hopes to have plans before the council in October or November.

Though a Smithfield resident for more than 25 years, Zompa said he only recently went to Deerfield Park to join the Smithfield Senior Center. After Mancini died, the couple’s dog, Max, died a few months later. When COVID-19 hit, Zompa lost his job.

While at Deerfield Park, he found the perfect place for a memorial tree for Mancini. He spoke to Caine, who agreed, and began working on a plaque for the spot.

Caine thought of a rock he had pulled out of their yard years ago, and how it was the perfect piece for the memorial. He worked with Mancini’s relatives in Italy to get the inscription, written in Italian, correct.

Translated, Mancini’s memorial plaque says, “Family was his life, love is his legacy.”

“I was touched by this honor and tribute to David,” Zompa said.

He said he considers his ordeal with losing Mancini a gift, where he can now help others cope with loss and move through the pain.

“What you get, this strength, is only through love,” he said.

Zompa said the tree would mean a great deal to Mancini, who moved to Smithfield from Providence decades ago and loved the town.

“David would be so proud, feeling so honored and so grateful. This I know,” he said.

Zompa said he is able to find comfort in the memorial to Mancini, and the trees help beautify the town.

“We got to put a program together so other people can have the same opportunity to express their love, their Zen, somewhere besides the cemetery,” he said.

He hopes others will follow suit, bringing more memorial trees to town.

“Again, it brings me great comfort,” he said. “It’s tough. This helps me.”

From left, are the late David Mancini and Paul Zompa.