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With a slight tremor in his voice and perhaps some watering of the eyes, Steve Tichenor humbly accepted the praise bestowed on him and his family Saturday afternoon.
“Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to see these kids out here playing soccer, baseball and softball. This park has grown into something greater than I ever dreamed it would be,” said Tichenor.
About a decade ago, most residents would not recognize what is now known as Waterford Park. Back then, it was three or four small farming plots divided by a series of ditches that drained heavy rains into nearby Plum Creek.
Donald Terry, former owner of the Pumpkin Patch, said he remembers “weeds eight-feet tall and ditches you could lose a tractor in.” But what he saw in those 18 acres was potential.
To the audience at Waterford’s homecoming, Terry spun the tale of how he approached Tichenor with the idea to turn his farmland into a community park.
As Tichenor stood in the small store with his usual purchases of an orange crush and some tator wedges, Terry carefully unfolded a piece of paper. See, Terry loved America’s favorite pastime and he had figured just how many ball fields could fit on Tichenor’s land.
“Let me think about it,” was how Terry remembered Tichenor responding.
A short time later, the deal was struck. Tichenor would donate the land to the county for the purpose of creating the area’s first park. In addition to a couple of ball fields, Tichenor suggested soccer fields to provide space for local children to play the increasingly popular sport.
“To my knowledge, before any money was allocated, the Tichenor family had their own equipment and workers on that field,” said Terry.
The monument would be a “small token,” said Terry, of the tremendous gift Tichenor donated to Spencer County families for generations to come.
“It is a tradition in the Tichenor family to give to the community and we are the better for it,” said Terry.
When given the chance to speak, Tichenor said it was the many volunteers and the thousands of dollars in donated material that made Waterford Park a reality.
In the Oct. 9, 2002 edition of the Spencer Magnet, Tichenor mentioned many of the vendors who donated materials, such as IMI Concrete, Larry Lawson Plumbing, Bennett Hardware and A&M Oil. Some who donated are no longer in business, like Greer Construction.
With donated materials, came donated labor by trained professional in such fields as electricity, plumbing and carpentry. Volunteers moved dirt and sowed grass seed, cleaned toilets and built picnic tables.
Two of those volunteers, Jason Hahn and Larry Gray, had the honor of unveiling the monument Saturday. They were both part of the original committee that organized volunteer efforts for Waterford Park. Others who helped in the early stages of construction were Jonna Upson, Connie and Dennis Eisenback, Don Terry, Pat Monroe and Cheryl Bowling.
Getting the Tichenor monument in place was yet another example of a volunteer-driven effort. One person donated the rock, while another person cleaned it. The large, triangular shaped rock protudes five feet into the air, with another four feet buried under ground – all donated labor. And of course the sign and landscaping around the monument were all given free of charge.
On the plaque it reads, “Waterford Park: This land donated by Steve and Linda Tichenor for their love of our county and the people in it.”
Anthony Travis, a former magistrate, said that Tichenor did much more than donate land and use of his equipment, “he did all the plumbing and electrical work, too.”
But, Tichenor would never admit it.
And changes continue as volunteers add more features to Waterford Park.
“There’s always things you can do,” said Jason Hahn. He said hopes are to continue making the park a better place to relax and play with new bleachers and dugouts with roofs.
“It is truly a community effort,” said Tichenor.