Library News

Parker Garden latest philanthropic addition to Santori Library

AURORA – A garden that will be open to the public but designed for those affected by memory loss is being donated to the Aurora Public Library through the library’s foundation by the family of Dr. M. Jack and Elaine Parker, formerly of Aurora.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAElaine Parker was a noted educator who was suffering from dementia when she died in June, 2012. Jack Parker, who died in March, 2012, was her husband for 60 years and took on the role of providing 24-hour care for Elaine in her later years so they could remain living independently in their home.

“As a culture, we’ve learned to accommodate physical disabilities with elements like curb ramps, elevators and text-to-speech capability on computers, but we can’t seem to bring ourselves to make environmental improvements to accommodate dementia,” said the couple’s elder son, J. Scott Parker of Portland, Oregon.

The Parker Garden, which will be located on the west side of the library (currently under construction on the southwest corner of River and Benton streets), will offer a safe haven for people with memory loss and their caregivers.

Aurora Public Library Board Member Walt Meinert enjoyed a more-than 40 year friendship with Jack and Elaine Parker. “I was delighted to learn the Parker family saw the new Aurora library as a way to express the dedication their parents had to both old and young in our community,” Meinert said.Elaine_Parker_at_Nancy_Hill_School (2)

Designed by landscape architect firm Quatrefoil, Inc., of Portland, the garden will have a single gated entry/exit with a pleasant signal (such as a chime) when the gate is opened. Other features of the garden will include thorn-free, nontoxic and easily replanted greenery and areas for caregivers to relax.

“In the late stages of her dementia, my mother could not put together a sentence, but it wasn’t hard to know what she did or didn’t like,” Scott Parker said. “She did not like constraint. Like anyone, she liked to be free to do what she wished. But she needed constraints for her own safety.”

The Parkers, including Scott and his wife, Ellen Vanderslice (of Portland, Oregon), and Calvin and his wife, Carey Shea (of New York, NY), are making a charitable gift of $100,000 to the Aurora Public Library Foundation to make the garden at the new Richard and Gina Santori Public Library of Aurora a reality. They also are providing a $40,000 challenge grant that will give the community an opportunity to participate in the construction of the garden. Naming opportunities for amenities such as benches, sculptures and water features are available.

In 1965, Elaine Parker began what would become a career spanning more than 25 years of teaching second grade at Nancy Hill Elementary School in District 129. She was named “Illinois Teacher of the Year” in 1983. Mrs. Parker also established the Near Northwest Neighb

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