South End garden hosts open house and dedicates ‘Grove of Elders’

Kent’s Thomas-Anderson Memorial Garden dedicated a tree grove and showed off its plantings to the community. Bottom row from left to right: Rosalina Chavez, Rachelle Chavez, Ria Chavez, Eden Craver-Dean, Joan Siedel. Middle row from left to right: Shawntay Loftin, Lorraine McCarty. Back row from left to right: Randy Ruchotzke, Barbara Hanniford, Raquel Loftin. Submitted photo

An outdoor open house under sunny skies June 25 at Kent’s Thomas-Anderson Memorial Garden gave visitors an opportunity to soak up the flavor of its natural and artificial elements and the area where it’s located.

Situated in the heart of Kent’s historic South End neighborhood, the garden is in its second year and contains the Seneca Indigenous Garden, Ciccone’s Italian Garden, Miss Tweet’s Soul Garden, a space for Mother Willie Mae’s healing herbs, Miss Rita’s Pollinator Garden and a culinary herb garden.

A well-stocked Little Free Library stands adjacent to Mother Nellie’s Resting Bench. The garden also features a fountain spigot and birdbath.

Doria Daniels, chairwoman of the Historic South End Association of Kent and mastermind behind the garden, oversaw the afternoon’s events from her car. The garden, after all, is on her property.

The Thomas-Anderson Memorial Garden is named for the Reverend Fred Thomas, a longtime minister at Union Baptist Church just across the street; and Ben Anderson, Daniels’ stepfather and a former Kent at-large councilman. He was, Daniels says proudly, the first Black man to be elected in all of Portage County.

Daniels turns her eyes to the garden’s fruit tree grove, formally dubbed the Brown & People’s Fruit Tree Grove of Elders. Ten saplings — apple, cherry, plum, fig, peach and pear — honor the past and give hope for the future.

Each sapling was provided by families who have lost a loved one, Daniels said. The peach tree was donated by Tim Krasselt, husband of the late Roger Di Paolo, a Kent native and local historian who was the longtime editor of the Record-Courier.

“Roger’s history is here,” she said. “His parents lived on Franklin Avenue. He has roots in the South End.”

Daniels is looking forward to next month when the trees will be formally dedicated, along with a dinner at the Kent American Legion. The South End Association will provide memorial plaques to be placed next to each tree.

The garden tour was sponsored by the Kent Environmental Council. In 2021, the KEC presented Daniels with the Edith Chase Conservation Award for her work in the South End.

She deflects compliments, preferring to highlight the army of local volunteers who labored to make the garden possible.

The garden, located at 1110 Walnut St., is open to the public. Donations are accepted and can be made to Hometown Bank, c/o the Thomas-Anderson Memorial Garden.

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.

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