By KATHY CHANG
EDISON — Jonathan Baksh spent a lot of time at the Raritan Riverfront on Meadow Road.
“He told me he wanted to make the area beautiful,” said Sally Yabra, recalling a conversation she had with her eldest son while sitting in the car at the riverfront.
At that moment, Yabra told her son his idea would take a large effort with a lot of people. On April 17, that effort came to life in memory of the young man, who Yabra said had big dreams of making a name for himself.
Baksh, a 2013 Edison High School graduate, was just 19 years old when he tragically lost his life while swimming with friends at Martins Creek quarry in Lower Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania, in August 2015.
“Jon was at the boat basin the night before he went away,” said Yabra. “It’s very secluded. … It’s a place to hang out crab, fish, catch and release; it’s our own water area instead of heading to the beach, which is an hour away from here.”
The township served as the host to the Raritan Riverfront cleanup and beautification project to honor the memory of Baksh.
“I contacted the mayor [Thomas Lankey] and told him that Jon wanted to make [the Raritan Riverfront] a better place, and we would like to do something in his memory,” said Yabra, who added that her son was very involved in the township and the schools.
Family and friends along with township officials from the Department of Public Works, Boy Scout Troop 110 of Edison, and members of the Edison Greenways Group, spent time clearing the riverfront walkway and then planted a Kwanzan flowering cherry tree in memory of Baksh.
Members of the Boy Scout Troop also set up bird feeders along the riverfront walkway.
As music played, Yabra along with Baksh’s sister Alexa Yabra and his brothers, Gabriel and Benjamin Yabra, laid red roses under the tree, and then family and friends took rose petals and let them set sail along the Raritan River.
Yabra and township officials hope the “Remembering Jon — Riverfront Beautification Project” will become an annual event.
“Our riverfront held special significance for Jon and his family,” said Mayor Lankey. “We are pleased to have this beautification project pay tribute to his life and also help our community commemorate Earth Day, coming up on April 21.”
Baksh, the son of Ben and Sally Yabra, worked in his family’s business, The Coffee House in Clara Barton, and part-time at the Skylark Diner.
Supplies for the cleanup and new plantings are being funded with a grant from the Clean Communities Program.