Thursday, June 14, 2007
The Devine Way
Hey, the ceremony for the dedication of a portion of Forest Park in honor of my mother Joyce Devine held at the skatehouse (above) yesterday was a big success. Because it was held in the middle of the afternoon I figured many people who would be otherwise inclined to come wouldn't be able to leave work to do so, and of course I don't hold it against anyone who couldn't. But a much larger crowd than was anticipated showed up, over 60 people, and it was a beautiful and sometimes emotional event. Here is a picture of my mother as she was as a student at Springfield's Technical High School in 1949.
The skatehouse where the ceremony was held is right on Porter Lake. This stone says it was named after someone named Sherman Porter, but why the hell he deserved that honor I have no idea.
The skatehouse has the official ECOS flag on the front. ECOS stands for the Environmental Center for Our Schools. My mother, along with the late Clifford Phaneuf and others, were among the pioneers of ecological education, not just in Springfield, but nationally. One of the speakers said that Phaneuf was "the brains" behind the ecology center, while my mother was "the heart."
Cliff Phaneuf's son, Wayne Phaneuf, the Executive Editor of the Springfield Newspapers was there, shown here chatting with my sister Beverly.
There will be something in the paper about the ceremony in the coming days, but I don't know exactly when. The newspaper sure did interview a lot of people and take a lot of pictures!
My mother taught at the ecology center for decades, until declining health forced her to come inside the skatehouse and become the program's secretary, where she worked right up until her death. She was known to be especially effective with problem children who were hard to handle, having earned the equivalent of her doctorate in that field by raising me.
My mom's life had an odd symmetry in that she died the morning of her 70th birthday, living from May 1st 1933 to May 1st 2003. The only similarly tidy life and death span I know of is Hartford's Mark Twain, who was born during the appearance of Halley's Comet, and then died exactly 75 years later on the night when Haley's Comet returned.
The event was mostly organized and arranged by my mother's dear friend and fellow ECOS person Burt Freedman.
Also in attendance was Springfield's retired Insurance Director Chris Collins (now school committee member) who had once been the head of ECOS.
Representing the School Committee was Antonette Pepe, who I hadn't realized before was a friend of my mother's and the head of her union.
Here is my cousin Roger, my Uncle Wallace Devine and my Dad.
Also present was the famous Springfield activist Karen Powell.
You might think that on this occasion I would be serious for once, but of course not. Here I am pretending to be choked by my tie (a Jerry Garcia tie, of course).
It's hard enough to get me to put a shirt on, let alone a tie, and this was in fact the first time this year that I have worn a tie, and unless there's a funeral or something, it may well be the last.
Following some speeches in the skatehouse, we all went and followed the trail leading to the marker bearing my mother's name. The trail is a bit like life, I guess. A stretch of the way was just a stroll alongside the lake.
Other parts of the way were a uphill climb along rough terrain. Maybe your life is a little like The Devine Way too.
The Devine Way was sort of tough to traverse for some of the older people present. Below is my brother Dick with my 82 year old Uncle John Devine, a retired professor from the Texas wing of the clan, who came north to read the poem he wrote about my mother, titled The Lodge at Porter Lake. Beside him is my sister Donna and her husband Steve Schneider.
At the end of the trail we had the unveiling of the official sign beside a wooden bridge over a swampy part of the trail, which was constructed by the Americorps program Youthbuild. The kids who worked on it posed by the sign as the cloth was removed.
A photographer, Michael Doran, sent along this picture he took of an Iris blooming near the bridge and sign.
He also took this picture of those of us who were willing to have our picture taken standing in the swamp at the end of The Devine Way.
Here is a video of the official unveiling.
Here is a video taken inside the skatehouse of the area where my mother worked in her final years.