Thursday, October 27, 2005

Library’s Betsy Kent garden moves forward with furniture

Staff Writer

The Marshall County Library’s garden left in memory of Betsy Kent expanded last week with the installation of a sitting area.

A bird bath, garden ornament, table, bench and chairs were installed Monday, Oct. 17. The next phase of the garden expansion will be urban landscaping to help attract wildlife, according to librarian Diane Schule. Trees were planted in Kent’s memory in March.

Kent asked for donations in her memory to go the Marshall County Library where she visited regularly. Kent was also known for her production of a live radio broadcast at Rust College and her interest in Strawberry Plains Audubon Center.

Kent loved the Holly Springs community so well that she commuted to work at Ole Miss and continued to live in Holly Springs, according to Bonnie Brown, one in Kent’s circle of friends at the University.

SueEllen Kivelle, also an admirer of Kent, said Kent donated books to the library and brought flowers often.

“We are hoping with the grants and donations we can expand the whole yard because we’re close to the historic church and homes,” Kivelle said.

Schule expressed continuing hope for the expansion of the library and parking lot for community uses.

“The vacant lot, where the old Coca-Cola building was, could be secured for library expansion and other offices,” she said. “We want donations from the city, county and private sources to buy the lot.”

“Once the lot is secured, we can apply for state construction grants. This little park and garden is a part of the whole thing. The library is looking for big changes.”

Schule said individuals can ask to become memorial beneficiaries and all donations would go to improvements at the library. Donations to the Betsy Kent Memorial Fund paid for the installation of the garden and for books, she said.

“We are still hoping that the Marshall County Library will be able to secure a mini-park grant and that more private donations will come in to complete the serenity/reading garden,” Kivelle said. “The lovely, quiet area will compliment our library and our community atmosphere.”

Kivelle continued, “We all knew that Betsy loved and supported our library; that she loved Strawberry Plains and their involvement with nature. And she absolutely loved people and having good conversations with them.

“Having this knowledge we planned on a sitting area with a bench for the library yard, starting with a Mississippi native blackgum tree, a living tribute to her. As our ideas grew, we planned for the south side of the Marshall County Public Library yard to become a mini park of sorts: a place where patrons can sit on benches and enjoy reading; a meeting place for friends to converse as they sit together and watch the birds.

“We are hoping for a trellis, a brick path with assorted landscaping and even an iron or brick fence to enclose the park. This spot will definitely add to the quaintness of our community and show the many visitors who come here just how much we care for our hometown.

“But more important than that, it will be for our own enjoyment. It was the hope of the groups who came together to honor Betsy that others from the community would want to join with us to see this project finished and to have a vision for other memorial projects.

“What nicer way could there be than to honor a loved one while helping revitalize and give back to the community? This could be just the start of our community joining together towards a longevity plan to help revitalize and spruce up our community.”

A community grass roots committee encourages interested persons to bring their ideas and energy to further this project and new ones like this. To inquire about the urban landscaping garden phase of the Kent serenity garden and other projects contact Audubon Mississippi at Strawberry Plains (662-252-1155) for information.

While traveling through the south Kent discovered Holly Springs, loved it and moved to the city when she took a job at Ole Miss in the office of admissions in 1990.

Previously she lived in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Kent is remembered by her many friends as a person of faith, pioneering spirit and love of adventure.

She was employed in the admissions office at Ole Miss and volunteered at WURC-FM radio station at Rust College where she hosted a program, “Prime Time Jazz.”

After retirement she returned to writing and publishing.

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