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A Legacy of Empathy: Cobblestone Arts Center Honors Virendra Kumar "VK" Tarneja

Updated: Feb 28

In a heartfelt tribute to the late Virendra Kumar Tarneja, community member Rajni Tarneja recently made a meaningful donation to the Cobblestone Arts Center in Farmington. This gesture not only commemorates the memory of her beloved husband but also establishes the Empathy Award, a touching initiative to annually recognize staff members who exemplify a remarkable level of empathy.

VK and Rajni embarked on their journey from India to the United States in 1995, fueled by the hope of providing a better life for their sons, Deepesh and Sumit. Deepesh, one of the recipients of VK's enduring love and care, has been a student at the Cobblestone Arts Center since 2011.

The Empathy Award aims to honor individuals within the Cobblestone community who emulate VK's extraordinary capacity for understanding and compassion. In recent years since its inception, performing arts coordinator Sarah Andreacchi, music teacher Nathan Davenport, and supervisor Barbara Knauf have all been recipients of the award. The 2022 recipient was awarded to dance and movement instructor Bethany Good for her kindness and care to each of the students. 

VK Tarneja was not only a cherished family man but also an active and engaged member of the community. His involvement with organizations such as Foodlink, Open Door Mission, Dimitri House, and the Nirankari Mission of Universal Brotherhood left an indelible mark. VK, alongside fellow volunteers, dedicated his time to preparing, serving, and sharing meals with cancer patients at Hope Lodge, demonstrating the true essence of empathy in action.

Rajni Tarneja, reflecting on her husband's legacy, shared, "You put others first, and in your time with them try to feel what they're going through. That's what my husband did. Whether it was with cancer patients at Hope Lodge, members of our church, or our two sons with special needs, he showered unconditional love on everyone he met."

The Empathy Award serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of compassion and understanding in our communities. Rajni's initiative not only preserves VK's memory but also encourages a culture of empathy, ensuring that his legacy continues to inspire kindness and selflessness among those at the heart of the Cobblestone Arts Center. The recipients of this award, embodying the spirit of VK Tarneja, stand as a testament to the enduring impact one individual's empathy can have on the lives of many.

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