2018-05-17 / Front Page

Playground installed with memories

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff


FOUR OF the six surviving Deering siblings gathered to build a play structure in memory of their brother, Don and father, Mark Deering. Pictured (from left) are Linda (Deering) Chase; Stan Fox and wife Janet (Deering) Fox; Mark Deering of Indiana and Dave Deering of Empire. FOUR OF the six surviving Deering siblings gathered to build a play structure in memory of their brother, Don and father, Mark Deering. Pictured (from left) are Linda (Deering) Chase; Stan Fox and wife Janet (Deering) Fox; Mark Deering of Indiana and Dave Deering of Empire. Families with small children will have one more reason to visit Empire Beach this summer.

A group of more than a 20 volunteers worked parts of Friday and Saturday to install a new play structure in memory of two men, who each left their individual marks on the community.

The project was special for members of the Deering family, some of whom traveled from as far as Wisconsin, Indiana and Kentucky to install the structure in honor of their brother, Don, and father Mark Deering along the west shore of South Bar Lake.

Don Deering grew up in Empire and served on the Glen Lake Board of Education before his life was cut short by cancer in October 1985. Just 35 years old, he left a wife and two small children.

“We built a smaller wooden play structure here with memorial funds after Don died,” said his sister Linda Chase, who traveled home from Eddington, Ky. for the project. “He had had cancer when he was 17 and it came back when he was in his 30s.”

Joining her in the community effort to build and install the new equipment were sister Janet Fox and brother-in-law Stan Fox of Brookfield, Wis. and brothers Mark and Dave of Indiana and Empire, respectively.

The components of the structure were of particularly importance to Janet, who works as a special education teacher.

“The other structures at the park are for older kids,” she said. “This was built specifically for small children and is handicap accessible.”

The play equipment in blue, gray and green features a dragonfly teeter-toter, three slides, a vertical climbing tube and T-bar swing.

Support for the purchase and construction of the $43,681 play structure came from several different sources including the Deering Trust, which includes memorials offered with the passing of family patriarch Mark Deering, who died on Aug. 19, 2016 at the age of 100.

Mark Deering was a lifelong resident of Empire and joined his father as a butcher in the family store after returning from World War II.

Like so many members of the “greatest generation” Mr. Deering was very active in the community serving as the village president and fire chief. He was also a member of the Empire Lions Club and celebrated perfect attendance during his 50-year membership.

The Deering Trust contributed $10,000 for the project. The donation was matched by the Village of Empire.

The Empire Lions kicked in $7,000, Team Elmers provided an in-kind contribution of concrete, and the vendor, Sinclair Recreation, gave a grant leaving about $13,000 that had to be raised.

“I went around and solicited the balance,” village deputy clerk Darlene Friend said. “They were happy to give. A lot of people said we don’t want to just be known as a senior community.”

The fundraising had to be completed last fall and the components were shipped to the village in December, for assembly this spring.

But scheduling was tricky when winter weather extended into the calendar.

“I knew April would be too soon and it really was the case this year,” Friend said. “I didn’t want to scheduled it on the weekend of the Asparagus Festival and the following weekend is Memorial Day.

“So, I picked Mother’s Day weekend and it was just right.”

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