"You just had to know Heather," said her grandmother, Mary Valerio. "We really want to celebrate what she did accomplish in the short time she was here."
Heather Valerio, a 2003 Solvay High School graduate, was 23 when she died unexpectedly in January following a brief illness. Nearly a year later, the Solvay Public Library will host an art exhibit in her memory, displaying photographs, paintings and sketches of Heather's, selected by her family.
Valerio said one Saturday afternoon, family members gathered at her home in Solvay to select artwork that would be part of the exhibit - a therapeutic exercise for a family still dealing with the grief of their loss.
The display, titled "Heather M. Valerio Memorial Art and Photo Exhibit," will run the month of December in the community and small meeting rooms at SPL, where Heather volunteered many hours.
A glance at the Myspace page established by Heather's friend in her memory shows Heather as a well-loved, and missed, young woman. Messages left by friends as recently as last week show the impact Heather had on the people around her.
"She had a lot of friends," Valerio said. "We didn't realize until the calling hours how many peoples lives Heather had actually touched. I don't think she was aware of it."
Valerio said four of Heather's friends from college are planning a trip to Solvay to view the exhibit.
"We're hoping this gives people who knew and loved Heather some closure and pleasure in seeing her art live on," Valerio said.
A passion to create
Heather was always an artist, said her grandmother.
"Basically, she did her art and you could draw your own conclusions," she laughed, remembering how Heather, like many artists, did not usually talk about her art.
Always interested in many different mediums and techniques, a high school photography class sparked an interest in Heather.