Sunday, September 5, 2021

Collingswood, We Are Here - August 23, 2021 Part One

So, Monday arrived and we left the hotel with memorial plaque in hand to meet up with the lovely folks from the Camden County Parks System.  Our liaison with their department is Ashley Pagan.  She arrived with her coworker at app. 11:00 and the discussion of where to put the memorial bench began.  

Jessie Jo has been dealing with Ashley directly since the project was conceived.  Ashley and the Camden County Parks System people have been very helpful and accommodating.  If you remember, they allowed more words on the plaque and also approved the use of an image (Michael as Little Joe with the Ponderosa Ranch House).  We want to thank them again for that.  Ashley was very helpful and enthusiastic and, in the end, we got everything we hoped and wished for! 

Jessie Jo

Arriving at the same time as Ashley was Bob Hasting of the Collingswood Public Works Department.  Abbe Effron told us that the Public Works Dept. is the one that maintains 'The Little Tree House in the Park' as well as the rose bushes surrounding the pillar and memorial plaque.  She suggested we contact them in regards to any landscaping for the bench.  Bob was super-nice and super-excited to be involved.  He told us how his daughter fell in love with Michael Landon at five years old and everything in their house was 'Michael' for a long time!  Bob is a Collingswood native and has connections to some of the older inhabitants of the borough.  He mentioned several still living who went to school with young Eugene Orowitz.  We hope, before the dedication ceremony, to get in touch with some of them.  

Perhaps we will have a new story to tell! 

After we gathered and exchanged greetings, the six of us crossed the street to the area where the bench was to be placed.  Our first 'yippee!' moment was finding out that the bench could - and would - go directly across from Michael's house!  

Once we reached the area across from Michael's home, one thing became apparent - God had already planted the perfect tree to grace the memorial bench.  Standing directly across from his boyhood home is a beautiful old and large Sycamore tree, nearly 100 feet high.  It is impossible to know for sure, but the odds are that it was there - as a small tree or sapling - when young Eugene crossed the grassy strand to the dock on the lake nearby.  Ashley said it would be perfectly acceptable to place the bench unde the spreading arms of the Sycamore and to have it face the house so fans could sit on it and enjoy the view. 

So, the decision was made to place the bench beneath the Sycamore tree and to enhance the setting with two flowering bushes or trees (type yet to be determined).  It is an amazing setting, with this tremendous tree above and lots of shade below and we hope that everyone who sits there and sees the plaque and views Michael's boyhood home from it will be moved by the experience. 

We hope you enjoy these images of the Sycamore, Newton Lake where Michael (or young Eugene) fished and dreamed as a boy, and his house across the street.  One day we hope you can experience this peaceful and beautiful setting and the bench in person! 

As of early afternoon, the plaque was delivered and the bench location chosen.  Ashley told us that the Camden County Parks System Board will give final approval at its September meeting and then the footer and plaque will be put in place.  Next comes the bench.  Unfortunately, due to Covid19 shortages and delays, they have no firm date for the delivery of their new shipment of benches.  We are hoping and planning (and praying!) that the memorial will still be done in time for an October dedication this year. 

The day was half done and now it was time move on to a few other things.  When visiting 'The Little Tree House in the Park' memorial, we noted the bushes needed trimming and Michael's handsome face could use a polish - so it was off to Walmart on a shopping expedition and then back to Knight Park. 

To be continued....


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