A piece of history planted at Dean Park in memory

by Elmetra Patterson

It was a beautiful day to plant trees, vegetables and flowers in Dean Park on Saturday, April 14, 2012. In a Memorial Tree Planting Ceremony, Friends of Dean Park, Inc. planted a piece of history in memory of: • Robert ‘Bud’ and Willie B. Turner sold a portion of their lease to County Extension Agent Milton E. Dean, October 8, 1946, for the development of the Negro 4-H Club youth Park. It was later named in memory of Milton E. Dean to become Dean Park, and it became the only park managed by Winston County. There was no one present from the Turner family. The FODP is still researching information about the Turners. If anyone has any photos or an obituary of theirs, please contact Elmetra Patterson (510) 672-2106. • Lee Howard and Laura Eleby Eichelberger donated a portion of their land to make Dean Park’s boundaries as they are today encompassing the pond. They along with Robert ‘Bud’ and Willie B. Turner made this possible. Dora Eichelberger-Jones and Willie T. Eichelberger were present to share about their parents. Dora shared that she remembers when there were two ponds; one owned by her parents and the other by Robert ‘Bud’ and Willie B.Turner. According to her, “Both ponds were joined to become one and both men allowed the pond to become a part of Dean Park.” She retired and moved back home from Milwaukee and presently lives close to the pond where she enjoys fishing. Willie T. Eichelberger is the Dean Park Commissioner from District 4 and lives near the park, also. Plummy Shields and family kept a watchful eye on the park as they lived across from it. He donated many volunteer hours to the maintenance of the park and worked as a security guard when the county fair was held at the park. His daughter, Sylvia Beck was there to attest to her family’s love of the park. She shared how she grew up with the park as her daily playground. Mr. Shields passed July 2011 and his memory is fresh in the mine of her and the community. He was an ‘institution’ in the Center Ridge Community who gave a lot of his time and money to the church and community. Mrs. Zettie Shields, his wife, recently donated the red wagon to the park which is very beautiful and visible to passersby. Richard Moncrief and Elmetra Patterson shared their memory of when Mr. Shields donated the huge Christmas tree to the FODP for its first Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in 2009. County Agent Mike Skipper was there to give the group the history and to guide them in the planting of three Princeton American Elm trees, Ulmus Americana ‘Princeton’. Four FODP members of the Master Gardener Class offered by Mississippi State University (Janice and Tommie Hopkins, Elmetra Patterson and Richard Moncrief) were there to learn by doing. Their most recent class was on Botany in which they studied about scientific/species/botanical names of plants. Mike Skipper is the instruction with several others from Mississippi State. The Princeton Elm tree is highly resistant to Dutch elm disease which destroyed many American elms many years ago. This species of elm has eighty five years of success in the landscape. It is the widest Habitat of any Native North American Shade Tree. It is a true American elm not a hybrid and is extremely tolerant of harsh urban conditions. It thrives in any soil type and is extremely fast growing. The US Park Service selected the Princeton American Elm for Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House. FODP is so proud to have these historic trees make their home at historic Dean Park, planted on a historic day in honor of three historic people whose homes surround the park. The group gave thanks to the county supervisors and Dean Park Commission for allowing this project to go forth.