By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor
SHREWSBURY – Chris Rourke has childhood memories shaped and punctuated by the programming of the Shrewsbury Parks and Recreation Department.
Now, he’s helping in an effort to honor some of the key individuals who helped build the department into what it became.
“They were always doing something,” Rourke said of the department in an interview earlier this year.
Fundraiser supports redesign plans
Rourke is looking to raise $10,000 to relocate and redesign a series of existing monuments to honor the work of Bobby Zona, Gary Hardenbrook, Dawn Shannon, Ginnie Pierce and Paula Rourke, Chris’ sister.
Rourke is raising those funds through a GoFundMe page which he launched last month.
He’s already gained the endorsement of the town Parks and Cemetery Commission and has plans in place to include new landscaping and new benches in the redesign. The project will also relocate an existing memorial bench and add 24-hour illumination for a flagpole that was originally dedicated in Paula’s honor.
This redesign will take place at Dean Park, which already hosts that flagpole as well as memorials to Zona and Pierce, all in different locations within the park.
“I said, ‘You know what, they all want to sit next to each other,” Chris recalled of his motives for this project.
Town employees helped establish Parks Department
Zona, Hardenbrook, Shannon, Pierce and Paula Rourke filled a number of different roles over the years.
Collectively, though, Rourke said, they helped build their department and improve local facilities like the fields at Dean Park.
“Parks and Rec was the greatest program any town could ever have and they showed it, and they did it,” Rourke said.
He remembers marching in countless parades alongside Paula, once begrudgingly dressing up as Prince Charming at her urging.
Rourke said he saw the movie “Rocky” for the first time on a trip to the movies that the department coordinated.
“That’s the kind of stuff they did,” he said.
‘Their names will be carried on’
Decades after those days, Rourke is hoping the redesigned memorial space he’s helping plan will serve as a reminder to Shrewsbury of the work done by some of its beloved community members.
Current Parks and Recreation Department officials echo that sentiment.
“I think it’ll be important because their names will be carried on for the next generation and, when people come to Dean Park for current events, they’ll see their names there and we can appreciate what they did,” Superintendent of Public Facilities and Parks Angela Snell said.
That aforementioned GoFundMe campaign had raised $1,375 toward its goal as of Oct. 26. Those interested in learning more and/or donating can do so by visiting https://gofund.me/8980242d.