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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Co-An Park pays tribute to two volunteers

by Sylene Argent

Volunteers are an integral part of the fabric of any community’s tapestry. Without their selfless efforts, the community would not benefit from all that service clubs provide.

  Recognizing the important role volunteers provide to Co-An Park in McGregor, two dedicated individuals were recognized, posthumously, during the annual Co-An Co-Ed Baseball Tournament and Dinner on Saturday.

Those at the all-day tournament took a brief break from playing baseball for a few moments to dedicate a tree to the memory of long-time Essex County Steam & Gas Engine Museum volunteer, Evelyn Baker, who passed away exactly three months earlier.

Her daughter, Donna Hanson, said Baker was involved with the McGregor Music Festival and the Essex County Steam & Gas Engine Museum for years, going all the way back to when it was still stationed at the Canadian Transportation Museum & Heritage Village.

When Hanson heard a tree dedication was planned to honour her mother and her volunteer efforts, she was pleasantly surprised. She knew her mother was a humble woman, and likely would have appreciated the award, but would have thought someone else, just as deserving, could have just as easily been the recipient.

Hanson got emotional during the ceremony when the plaque, emblazoned with her mother’s name, was handed to her.

“She told it like is was,” Hanson said of Baker. “If she didn’t like something, she told you.”

This was not the first time Baker was recognized for her volunteer spirit. In 2016, she was awarded the Ontario Medal of Good Citizenship.   

Baker got involved with the Essex County Steam & Gas Engine Museum when her husband lost his leg. It was a way to do something important together.

When Baker got sick last year, Hanson recalls her mother telling her she had trouble sleeping because she worried about the future of the club she volunteered with for more than 30-years.  

Over at the other end of Co-An Park, the family of the late Wayne “Bones” Bondy celebrated his life with the dedication of Baseball Diamond #2.

“It is great to be here to celebrate Wayne Bondy and what he contributed to this Park,” Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche said, noting the park’s origins stem back to 1977.

When Bondy, also a farmer by trade, retired from a long career at Amherstburg’s General Chemical, he took on a position of caretaker of the park. Bondy loved the job, in addition to the love he had for his family.

Bondy’s family laughed affectionately when a story about his son, Brad, was told. One time, Brad commented the grass at Co-An was a bit long and suggested his dad should cut it. Bondy tasked his son with cutting the grass, and Brad has since thought the grass is always the perfect length.

Bondy’s wife, Betty, said her husband would have been so proud to know a diamond at the park was dedicated in his honour. He loved the job at the park as a sports fan and as a farmer. He also took pride in being able to watch his 14 grandkids and six children play on the grounds he maintained.

Essex’s Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said every year during the Co-Ed tournament, the Co-An Park Committee recognizes a few volunteers for the selfless contributions they committed to keeping the park maintained and available for families to enjoy.

As the park was founded with efforts of the former Colchester North and Anderdon Townships, the Committee tries to select a resident from each Essex and Amherstburg every year as the recipients.


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