Karen Watkins called me last spring to talk about building a park to celebrate the legacy of 4 generations that had created and run Watkins and Son’s Funeral Home. I knew she was really serious about having something designed, built and maintained. She used the words “inspiring” and “amazing”, which is right up our alley.
We met on a piece of property adjacent to her business, which had been left empty after a building on the site had been razed. The soil was dry, uneven and strewn with cement chunks. Karen and her aunt, Valerie, talked about how they wanted the site to be a spot where their clientele could sit and be uplifted after the death of a loved one. A place to celebrate their lives on earth, instead of being saddened by their physical loss. What better place to do that, than a garden filled with Nature?
There was also to be an area in the garden for people to install a memorial stone. The stones were to be engraved with a loved ones name, and a phrase fitting their spiritual selves. We chose 2’ by 2’ bluestone pieces 2” thick, and lay them in the gravel walkway in a checkerboard pattern.
Karen Watkins devotion to the project was monumental. With Kevin Barry’s help, co-owner of Christie’s, weeds were kept down in the new beds at minimal cost by spraying them judiciously. Kevin worked closely with an employee on the watering needs of each plant. Their employee, Ben, did a fabulous job in the heat of July and August keeping everything alive and lovely… looking after his “babies” in the garden. One of Christie’s client’s in hearing about the project, was so moved that she donated 4 lovely Japanese maples to be planted at the 2 openings of the stone walkway.
Last week it all culminated at a Legacy Reception where there as an unveiling of the exciting plans that Watkin’s has for the metropolitan area. Karen’s interests lie not only in running a caring and professional business, but also in helping a range of students from All Saints High School. These students include orphans, children from foster families, from underprivileged families and from caring loving families. She has also reached out with Global projects of developing a teaching curriculum for dance and art in Guatemala. She has also done research on how to be a part of the “greener industry “for funeral businesses.
So if you drive by 2700 North Ave on Richmond’s North side and come upon a clearing of blue sky and green grass…slow down. Take in the locust trees, roses, limelight hydrangeas, lilacs, smoke bushes and meandering path with stone benches. You can’t miss. It is a healing place… a private park to be inspiring to the public at large through the generosity and love of the Watkins family.