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  • I was one of the park volunteers today. It is a group of mostly retired men that enjoy maintaining a historic patch of green near the downtown area. Nestled in a neighborhood of middle-class tudor style homes, the park has a bandshell, tennis courts, baseball fields, a municipal swimming pool, curvy roads, flower beds, gazebos and lots of trees.

    A new addition to the landscape is Doc Cooper's memorial garden. It is a circular design with a pea-sized pebble path and various shrubs and plants lining its edges. I wish I knew the names of the plants but I am a newbie. I am just learning this macro gardening thing. The garden was quite peaceful this morning. It always is. "The Doc" was a peaceful man.

    Doctor Cooper was a gynecologist. He helped bring life into the world. He also helped create an environment for that life to appreciate. The Doc had overseen many of the tree plantings. He gave lectures to school kids about the importance of the park. He got down on his hands and knees to lovingly spread the mulch and peat moss over the flower beads. Each fall he planted the tulips and daffodils - by the hundreds - for a spectacular colorful spring.

    When politicians and developers eyed the park with avarice, he defended it. When the park needed extra funding for its care and upkeep, he found it. When people trashed the park, he scolded them with a disapproving eye. Brandon Park was HIS park. He had taken care of the park for 40 years. He loved the trees... and the trees loved him.

    But ill health slowed the Doc down. Eyesight failing, partial paralysis on his right side and confined to a wheel chair, he still managed to direct and guide others. His mind was still sharp as a tack. He questioned the use of funds when a piece of equipment was bought or advised how to stop an infestation of harmful insects from hurting his beloved trees. The city workers always deferred to his authority. Even mayors treaded lightly around the Doc. Even though he was frail, half blind and crippled, he was a powerhouse of a man.

    In the fall of 2010, we had an open air meeting in the park. I said to the Doc, "Wow. What a great day! There won't be too many of these left." I meant that the cool gray days of winter would be engulfing us soon. But, the Doc's face turned solemn. He agreed, "Yes, Richard, not too many more left."

    The Doc died quietly in his home in the Spring. I miss him. He was a kind and gentle man. Standing in the Dr. Cooper garden, I think about my own mortality. How many days do I have left? At least today was a good day. I am thankful for that.
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