The phrase “last will and testament” evoke a lot of different feelings. Beyond the finality of death, there’s the desire to carry out those last wishes. When Mrs. Betsy Saunders and Mrs. Mary Mitchell learned about philanthropist Grace Arents’ will and that her intention to have gardens planted in memory of her uncle, entrepreneur Lewis Ginter, had yet to be carried out, the women were spurred to action. We met Betsy and Mary onsite of an Institute of Museum and Library Services National Medal awardee, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia, when they participated in StoryCorps.
LGBG sits on an historic property of over 50 acres of beautiful gardens, but the organization brings more than beautiful nature to it’s community: LGBG is a place to volunteer, somewhere to listen to music with the family, and even a good afternoon picnic spot. Its public programming educates the community on gardening and horticulture, allowing youth to realize that, yes, they eat plants.
That’s LGBG today, but back in 1981, 13 years after the city of Richmond took possession of the property, the land looked quite different.
Standing (l-r): Charlie Schmidt, Steve Clark, Dan Stackhouse
Seated (l-r): Nick Pumilia, Sarah Geis, Ren Schmidt, Rhonda Ellis
On beautiful Belle Isle, facilitator Nick Pumilia balanced on things with great agility while Sarah Geis made like a Copperhead and sunned herself on a rock.
Number Two: Donkeys do not go swimming.
Number Three: Hurry up, I’m waiting for you!
Today, Holly Anna Jones came to the booth with her friend and neighbor Stefan Ames, a third-grader. Stefan has cerebral palsy, and because of this has a very limited vocabulary of words. Instead, he communicates complex thoughts with an invented language of "pffffs," "das," and "ooofs." When asked who he looks like most, Stefan said that he is a mix of Daddy and Harry Potter.
Holly Anna said that Stefan is the strongest person she knows, and she can’t imagine her life without him.
Below, facilitator Sarah Geis is about to get a kiss.
Today, Ann Watlington came to the booth with her brother Sam and daughter Carson. Sam, an Elvis fanatic, talked about their upcoming trip to Graceland in Memphis, TN.
Mr. Alexander Lebenstein (pictured at right), an active member of the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond, VA, came into the StoryCorps booth today with his niece, Esther Binshtok and her husband, Mier. Mr. Lebenstein is a Holocaust survivor, and in recent years has been involved with the School Against Racism, School with Courage (Schule ohne Rassismus, Schule mit Courage), located in his hometown of Haltern am See, in Germany.
It is 80 degrees in Richmond today.
And, on her way to the booth, sadly camera-less, facilitator Sarah Geis saw her first opossum.
For our two days off, we traveled west to the Allegheny Mountains near the border of West Viginia. In Hot Springs, VA, we stayed in the modest Homestead (and got a deal!), and later stopped to look at this waterfall on our way back to Richmond.
The Richmond Public Library currently is host to "Parle moi je t’écoute," an interactive audio installation by Sami Ben Larbi. Four booths with only one side for seating are lined up so that no booth faces another. Library-goers can talk together with relative anonymity. It’s one part confessional, one part StoryCorps, and one part performance art.
Above, facilitator Nick Pumilia participates.
After setting up the booth in front of the Richmond Public Libary, Steve Clark from WCVE paid us a visit. His dog, Pearl, came too.