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New Memorial Park Benches At Dickinson Park



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New Memorial Park Benches At Dickinson Park

By Nancy K. Crevier

Employees of Newtown Parks and Recreation Department installed two new benches at Dickinson Memorial Park off of Elm Drive the week of October 15, said Parks and Recreation Director Amy Mangold. The black wrought-iron benches are a design recommended by Assistant Parks Director Carl Samuelson to the Parks Commission.

One of the benches is in memory of John “Jack” Honan, a longtime maintenance worker for the department, who died in 2009. Nestled against a hedge of boxwoods, this bench overlooks a portion of the picnic area at Jack’s Grove and the Dickinson playground. The bench was funded by Mr Honan’s family.

The second bench is situated near the front tennis court at the park, and honors resident Sue Gardner, who has dedicated many years to teaching the young and old of Newtown all about tennis. Its placement is the culmination of two years of fundraising, said local tennis player Julie Stern, who spearheaded the effort.

“As much as four years ago I was playing tennis one day with Helen Brickfield,” recalled Ms Stern, “and we got to talking about how so many people have been helped by Sue Gardner.” Ms Gardner had even helped arrange for a scholarship for her own son, Bill Stern, several years ago, she said, in order for him to attend a weeklong tennis camp. “Bill was just one of many kids Sue helped out,” said Ms Stern, whose grandson for the past two summers has also had the pleasure of learning the game from Ms Gardner, as well.

“She is so patient and nice and encouraging. Sue is a really good teacher,” Ms Stern said.

Other players on the courts that day overheard the conversation between Ms Stern and Ms Brickfield, and agreed that Ms Gardner deserved recognition. “Someone suggested a bench, and we all thought that was a good idea.”

But like so many good ideas, this one, was lost in the tall grass of life moving forward.

Then, two years ago, Ms Stern and a friend were out walking in the center of town and she brought up the idea. “We were right by the Town Hall South, so she said, ‘Let’s go right in and talk to Parks and Rec,’” Ms Stern said. Although Ms Mangold was not in that day, “Everyone else in the office we spoke with was really enthusiastic,” she said.

She followed up with another meeting with Ms Mangold, who showed her the design selected by Mr Samuelson. If Ms Stern and her friends could raise the money, the department would install the bench, Ms Mangold told her.

Ms Stern told a few friends, who told more friends, who passed on the word. “People pitched in and we raised $600 of the $900 plus shipping it would cost. Parks and Rec was very supportive,” Ms Stern said, “and picked up the difference.”

The bench came as a complete surprise to Ms Gardner, who found out about the honor when she bumped into Newtown High School tennis instructor Maureen Maher in a local market.

“She asked me how I liked my new bench, and I had no idea what she was talking about,” declared Ms Gardner. “I just saw it Saturday [October 20] and almost cried. I’m very proud of it,” said Ms Gardner.

Many memorials, such as the bench in Mr Honan’s name, come about after the person is deceased, but Ms Stern and the other community members wanted this bench to honor Ms Gardner while she continued to live and teach in Newtown.

“We want her to know how much she has done for the tennis players of Newtown, of all levels,” said Ms Stern.

A dedication ceremony is planned for the near future, at the park.

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