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By Al Stilley
The memory of Blake Bowell will be ongoing at Garfield Park following an emotional
dedication of Blake’s Children’s Garden in front of 150 family, friends and supporters Friday.“ This is a welcoming area for children and their parents,” stated Beth Krouch, chief operating officer of Indy Parks. “A lovely tribute to Blake’s love for art and nature.”
The garden is located adjacent to the eastside of the Garfield Park Conservatory and features a sculpture “Divine Light’ and “Fran’s Place,” an outdoor education center. In his opening remarks, Friends of the Garfield Park board member Bob Kizer acknowledged, “Blake felt comfort in the nature of the park.”
With the opening of Blake’s garden, supporters expressed their hopes that visitors would also find comfort in the latest addition to the beauty of Garfield Park. Mark Bowell, Blake’s father and executive director of Friends of Garfield Park, acknowledged family members and longtime friends of Blake.“
When you do something like this, you look at life in many different ways,” Bowell said while honoring all donors. “I could never imagine how this turned out. I know Blake is looking down and he is smiling.”
Upon entering the garden, visitors will see a colorful sculpture that is 5 feet, 8 inches in height, the same as Blake, and designed by Franklin Central High School alumnae and artist Kenzie Funk. She described the sculpture, “Divine Light” as “a representation of Blake Bowell’s life and his transition to the divine light that will echo through eternity.”
Friends of Garfield Park president Lynda Burrello recalled that Blake had great leadership qualities. He had to miss a team contest as a youth, but his teammates did not want to play if their leader wasn’t among them. Burrello said she encouraged them to play and to win the game for Blake which they did.
She also recalled that he befriended a six-year-old swimmer who was on the park’s swim team.
At a swim meet, team captain Blake noticed that the swimmer was having trouble during a race, so he jumped in the pool and made sure he finished. The young boy told Burrello later that he wished he could be a leader like Blake someday. Blake also was a tireless volunteer at the conservatory.
“He was an amazing young man,” said Burrello before reading the plaque that will be a permanent part of the garden.
The plaque reads: “Blake Bowell grew up on the southside of Indianapolis. He played at Garfield Park, worked at Garfield Park and spent some of his last days on earth at Garfield Park. He loved Garfield Park. Blake, the son of Mark Bowell and LeDania Carmichael, and grandson of long-time Garfield Park residents David and Dale Bowell, was born on May 5, 1992 and lived an adventurous and courageous life before passing away on June 5, 2017after a four-year battle with brain cancer. The Friends of Garfield Park wish to thank all those companies and individuals who gave to make this children’s garden become a reality.”
Many of those honored companies and individuals, including longtime Garfield Park benefactor P.E. MacAllister, were in attendance. Among the honorees were the Hagerman Group, Mader Design, Friends of Garfield Park, Indy Parks and Recreation, Brad and Wendi Shaffer Family Foundation, Deco Coatings, Bowen Family Foundation, Lilly Endowment, MacAllister Machinery, Guardian Locating, Shelby Materials and BlakeStrong Bowell Fund. Bowell also acknowledged various family members, friends and supporters of his son during his 25 years. Bowell praised MacAllister for his personal support and value to Garfield Park by stating, “At 100 years old, he is still graciously giving of his time, treasure and talent to our community. P.E. wanted to honor his late wife Fran.”
He then announced that an area of the garden directly behind the “Divine Light” sculpture will be designated as “Fran’s Place,” for outdoor education and groups.
A lively BlakeStrong Fest capped the two-day festivities at MacAllister Amphitheater in the park. The third annual event featured performances by Hyryder-a Grateful Experience, Free but Not Cheap,
The Lookouts, Barbender, Cathy Morris and the Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers. during the weekend at Garfield Park.
Funds from the festival benefit BlakeStrong and Friends of Garfield Park.