Sue Kissinger Wallner and Lois Worthy Burton dedicated much of their lives to the natural world, and so it made sense that they be remembered with a piece of nature in Denham Springs’ newest park.
In an emotional ceremony April 17, city officials and the Denham Springs Garden Club dedicated two memorial trees in the new Centerville Park in honor of the women.
Wallner, who died In February 2013, never went anywhere without a shovel, her friend Jeanette Gatzman said, and there aren’t many places in the city that don’t have a special touch of flora she added.
Burton, who died in January 2014, was known for her love of flowers.
The ceremony also served as a dedication for the new park.
Centerville is the eighth park to be added to the city’s park system, and was truly a community effort, said Mayor Gerard Landry and former Mayor Jimmy Durbin.
“A lot of people have pitched in to help,” Durbin said, some offering materials, some services and some volunteering to help with maintenance and upkeep.
The park represents much more than the people who helped make Denham Springs beautiful, Durbin said. It represents an idea that the whole community believes in creating and maintaining beautiful, litter-free spaces that the community can enjoy.
“This is who we are. This is what we are,” he said.
A tree on the east side of the park is dedicated to the memory of Wallner, whom Gatzman met 30 years ago in Villa Del Rey, she said. They were in the Baton Rouge Garden Club together, and no one was more respected than Wallner, Gatzman said.
“When she moved to Watson, she became a member of the Denham Springs Garden Club, and like a tree, she had strong roots. She had a strong faith in God, and a dedication to her family. Her strength was not in asking, but in giving.”
Dolce McArdle, Burton’s daughter, said her mother had loved flowers for as long as she could remember and did the flowers at her own wedding.
“We spent I can’t tell you how long looking for southernwood,” McArdle laughed.
When her mom developed vision problems, she moved into a smaller cottage, and transformed her outdoor spaces into a garden of scents rather than sights.
“One of the first things she did was plant sweet olive,” McArdle said.
When she got to the point that she could no longer live alone, McArdle said, her friends at the Denham Springs Garden Club brought her flowers in the nursing home, and that helped keep her spirits up.
“She loved the garden club and she truly enjoyed being with you,” she said.
Located at the corner of Centerville and Hummel streets near downtown Denham Springs, the project is a partnership among Denham Springs Main Street, Keep Livingston Beautiful, Denham Springs Green and B&C Sheet Metal, Dale Zuelke, Jimmy Britton, Tom Lay, Jimmy Durbin and Rene Delahoussaye, all of whom who have donated money or services to get the project started.
“It’s a great project coordinated through the city,” Durbin said.
Brick walkways in the park lead to a centerpiece bronze statue of two small children climbing a rock and waving an American flag.