When my two oldest children, 21 year old Denis and 19 year old Peggy, were killed in the same auto accident eleven years ago, I established a Scholarship Fund in their names at the University of Dayton where my daughter was a junior. Helping other young people realize their dreams helped my heart a lot. Thinking of different ways to add to the scholarship kept me busy and challenged and still does, years later. It is always a delight to "share my children with the world," as I think of it.
Recently a program called "Adopt A Park" was featured in the county where I live. Little pocket parks, which adorn many areas in the town, were offered for adoption; meaning one puts his name on the park and keeps it manicured and "spruced up," removing litter and giving it the benefit of one’s green thumb. A contract is signed for a specific period of time and if one is a good caretaker, the reward is being allowed to renew the contract. It was a unique idea to enhance areas in town which had missed that special nurturing and consequently were looking a little rundown.
Friends of mine decided to adopt the little corner park a few blocks from their home in memory of their twenty-four year old son who had died in a car accident two years before. Robbie was a budding artist, sculptor, and poet, and his family was thrilled to adopt the park that just happened to be right next door to the restaurant where he had worked while he was a struggling student. In fact, he had spent many free moments sitting in this park, grabbing a bit of fresh air or an occasional cigarette. A lot of memories were tangles in this endeavor.
His parents, assisted by their four remaining children and spouses, nine grandchildren, and dear friends, touched the whole community by planning every detail so lovingly. This determined group cleaned up the corner plot, which was about 60’ by 100’, located at a traffic light on a main thoroughfare. The south side was the wall of the restaurant, the west border was a row of hedges separating it from a residential area, and the north and east sides were the two streets that intersected at that corner.
Catching a warm spell in December, they were actually able to plant 500 daffodil bulbs in a giant brick planter that surrounded a beautiful cherry tree in the center of the park. When spring arrived and the pink cherry blossoms and the yellow daffodil petals were in full bloom, the park benches and the restaurant wall were given a fresh coat of paint, after receiving the necessary permissions, of course. Then Robbie’s high school Art teacher, who had been his guiding light, painted one of Robbie’s poems, in handsome calligraphy, on the freshly painted wall. Adding a beautiful touch to the poem, the teenage artist daughter of friends, also bereaved parents, painted a gorgeous lavender iris, weaving it into the poem. The atmosphere that was created was breathtaking, especially to see Robbie’s name inscribed at the bottom. An official town sign proclaiming the park in his name was erected by the town.
The day before Mother’s Day, a dedication ceremony was held with a long list of family and friends invited. We were greeted with big hugs by smiling family members. A lively bagpiper welcomed the group with familiar tunes. Festive balloons were distributed, and a hand-made booklet of Robbie’s poetry was proudly presented to the guests. Pictures were taken, and family members said a few words. The oldest grandchild read a poem of her uncle’s, and the mother closed with another cherished poem by her talented son. Then everyone was invited inside to the restaurant for a tasty lunch, hosted by the kind-hearted owners of the restaurant where Robbie had worked.
So much love was involved and so many hearts were touched by this loving project to keep Robbie’s memory alive. Now, summer flowers have replaced the daffodils and more flowering shrubs are on the design board to further enhance "Robbie’s Park." With each season the community will feel the love of this family that permeates the park—as they share their loved one with them. Sitting in the park will stir lots of hearts; perhaps to say a prayer for Robbie and his family, or maybe just to say a prayer of thanks for their own families.
Written in memory of
Robert E. Purick, son of Connie and Bob Purick