Minnesota park honors lives of children gone

Published 8:28 am Monday, May 21, 2018

VIRGINIA — Mick Wudinich’s son, Jeff, is never far from his mind.

He wears a bracelet inscribed with a reproduction of his son’s signature: “Love You, Jeff.” And a tattoo on his forearm depicts a cross with angel wings. “Never Forgotten . Jeff,” it reads. “Dec. 31, 2015.”

Jeff is “my guardian angel,” said Wudinich, of Eveleth.

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Jeff Wudinich died on New Year’s Eve 2015 from complications following the 32-year-old’s open-heart surgery.

His dad has struggled quite a bit since that day he witnessed his son’s final moments after Jeff collapsed at Wudinich’s home, was revived by paramedics but would later die in the emergency room.

When everyone else is celebrating the end of one year and looking ahead to the next, Wudinich finds himself thinking back to the day he lost his son.

But there is a place on the Iron Range that has provided some hope and peace to Wudinich — the Angel of Hope Children’s Memorial Park in Virginia.

There, on the south shore of Silver Lake, a bronze angel with her arms outstretched watches over the park and the memorial tiles on the Wall of Love.

It is one of the last places Wudinich and his mother visited together before her death last September. The dad and grandma spent some time at the wall, where a memorial tile reads: “Jeff Wudinich, Forever Missed, Never Forgotten.”

“We talked to my son. We said, ‘We love you, Jeff,’” said Wudinich, who has a replica brick of the tile on display at his home.