It was a bittersweet ceremony as long-time residents of the village of Fredonia came to remember one of their own.
Mayor Stephen Keefe gave a touching speech about a local family and their passion for the place they called home.
"Let me go into a brief history of this (flower hanging ceremony). When it was decided that the village couldn't afford flowers this year, and it was suggested that donation be taken up for flowers, Rocky (Doino) suggested we do something in memory of Mr. (George) and Mrs. (Barbara) Weaver." Keefe then addressed the Weaver's daughter, Betsy Russell. "I didn't know your parents, but as I talked to people everyone spoke very highly of them. We have these community people that are doing things, and they all say the people who inspired them were your parents. Your parents have a living legacy in this next generation of people who are the doers in the village. We really wanted to show you we appreciate it."
OBSERVER Photo by Jasmine Willis
Long-time Fredonia resident Betsy (Weaver) Russell (center) was very moved at the flower dedication ceremony when village residents, including Rick Johnson ( right) spoke highly of her late parents.
OBSERVER Photo by Jasmine Willis
The Fredonia Rotary Club put together beautiful bouquets such as these all over the village in honor of a tradition that originated several decades ago.
Keefe turned to address the small crowd of community members who came to honor that legacy.
"I asked Betsy what she would like to have said in memory of her parents, and it was pretty simple ... She said they loved Fredonia," he said. "They were born and raised in this community, and made it their home. When you say something like that it kind of says it all. It's a beautiful community."
The mayor read off the proclamation he wrote in honor of the Weaver family.
"George and Barbara cherished Fredonia as their home. They determined there was a need for village-wide beautifications. They understood plants and flowers, and the impact they would have on the community. They took on the mission of planting and maintaining baskets in the village," he read. "I hereby proclaim community funding to continue for the hanging of baskets in the village. Let this be a tribute to the family, friends, and dedication to George and Barbara Weaver."
Russell was moved by the love village residents showed toward her parents who passed away several years back, George in 2008 and Barbara in 2011 and offered a heartfelt thank you.
"They did love Fredonia, and they never wanted to go elsewhere. They loved Fredonia because of the beautiful village and the people," she said as she accepted the certificate of dedication in her parent's honor. "It is just great they lived long, full lives, and they had wonderful lives. They knew how fortunate they were. I think it was their greatest happiness to share that here. I want to thank you for coming. There are not that many people left that have a connection to them. They loved you all and they loved this village."
Friends reminisced on what the Weavers, particularly George, meant to all of them.
Nostalgic stories of George and his plane, George and his mischievous behavior, George and his love for flowers; most of all George and his devotion to the community he loved to be part of, was passed around from one friend to the next, as they added their own thoughts on each loving tale.
Rick Johnson still has a very old painting George gave him one Christmas.
"Your father gave me a portrait of this park in 1863. I cherish it; what better legacy to leave behind than good memories," he told Russell. "They were primary players in the community."
Doino knew the Weavers for years, and he said George was a humble man.
"I have so much respect for him; he never wanted credit for anything. I feel better to have known him," he said. "I couldn't say enough. I had the pleasure of working with them and they felt a strong attachment to the community. Someday I am going to write the history of this place from my perspective and all the good people. They were very community oriented and loved it here."
Johnson added George was very instrumental in the establishment of the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation.
"He got it going and is part of its success," he said. "He was very private in his charitable work."
Russell admitted her parents felt the same way about all of them.
"They were always talking of all your success," she said. "Thank you everyone for your remembrance. It feels really good to be around so many wonderful friends."
Having immersed himself in the seeding business, George loved flowers and wanted to share that love with his community.
"It feels really good and nostalgic to come back here and see how very involved they were in this area," Russell said. "My parents would be pleased (with the continuation of their work) and very touched some of their dearest friends remember them. The idea of the flowers came from my father's interest in the park and wanting to beautify his home. He planted trees in the community too. This kind of thing always appealed to him."
As Russell took in all her parents had accomplished, she told of driving back home a lot over the years.
"Even though they are not here anymore, it is still nice to come back," she said.
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