Caring. Kind. Amazing. Influential. These are just some of the words used to describe the honoree of a garden dedication service at Parkwood Place Friday afternoon.
After more than 26 years as the retirement community’s director, Judy Walker retired in May. And while a small celebration was held for her then, the residents of Parkwood decided they wanted to do more to honor the first director of the community, which opened its doors in October of 1989.
“The residents at Parkwood started this. They wanted to do something special for Judy and they decided to dedicate the garden to her,” said Randy Combs, client relations manager at Parkwood Place. “It is their community, this is their home. It is a close-knit community, they are like family.”
Combs called Friday “Judy’s special day,” noting that it was a “beautiful day outside and we’re going to celebrate.”
A brief dedication service was held in the main lobby of the retirement community where many of the residents, staff members, invited guests and Walker’s family gathered to honor the long-time director.
“I want to give thanks for this influential woman here at Parkwood Place,” said Judy Davis, minister at Ebenezer United Methodist Church during the invocation. “She is so caring. Thank you for the love expressed through Judy.”
“Judy is a very special person,” said Ann Ashman, who has had family members as residents of Parkwood Place. “My father called Parkwood home.”
During her comments, Ashman noted the many events Walker planned for the residents, from trips to soda shops, spring flings, bus trips to see the autumn leaves and many more.
“I was driving along one day and saw the Parkwood bus coming and there was Judy driving. I thought, ‘That woman is amazing. She does it all,’” said Ashman. “Judy’s incite with every detail planned, with the kindness of small deeds that made everyone’s day. She has addressed the small challenges and the large challenges.
“She managed a very loyal staff and encouraged the other staff to be part of the greater family,” she said.
“She loved by all as she has loved all of us,” Ashman said. “The flowers in her garden are testimony to her wisdom and love.”
Also, taking time to honor Walker was Fred Norman, who was a member of the building committee which got Parkwood started and also had sisters as residents.
After recapping the history behind choosing the building design for Parkwood and getting construction under way, Norman said, “At this point, she was chosen to start this place in such a wonderful way that she did. Judy was chosen and she was the best.
“One of the smart things she did was she brought her friend Bill to do some things too,” Norman said of her husband, Bill Walker.
He said during his time with family at Parkwood he said he never heard a complaint out of them or anybody who was living there. “This retirement home is number one in the state of North Carolina and it may go farther than that.”
He noted the spring bus trips around town to see the dogwoods and other flowers in bloom, the trips to Wytheville, Virginia, to the dinner theater, the games of bingo and puzzles, musicians who would come in to perform, picnics at Stone Mountain, Christmas dinners served by local high school seniors and including fruit gifts from Santa Claus portrayed by Bill Walker.
“She had an art to pick different places in the country she could take people,” Norman said. “She wanted everyone to be happy and she went through this building constantly to make sure everyone had what they needed.”
Of Judy and Bill as a couple, he said, “I want to always thank and congratulate them for such a great job they’ve been doing. Thank you from all of us for the good job and God bless you.”
“This has been my passion,” Judy Walker said after the unveiling of the plaque in the small garden to the right of the main entrance to the building, which includes flowers, a small tree and a fountain. “This was a nice surprise. I just enjoy flowers and gardens.”
Walker said, “I loved (the job), but I’m looking forward to the next phase of my life.”
She plans on enjoying time with her family, including grandsons who play multiple sports, spending some time traveling and doing some volunteer work.
“Thank you all of you for making this a wonderful day,” she told those at the dedication service.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.