Late Libertyville resident honored for effort to revive sunken garden
Relatives fondly speculated that Wednesday's misty, cool weather was just what the late Valerie Carlson would have ordered for a special ceremony in her honor at the garden she so loved.
Nearly two dozen well-wishers, including several village officials, gathered at the restored sunken garden and limestone wall in Butler Lake Park to unveil a plaque honoring the Bristol, England, native and longtime Libertyville resident.
"I don't know what to say -- it looks so great," her daughter, Suzanne Liermann, said of the rustic setting. "I wish she would have seen it as nice as it is."
Carlson, who died in early 2015, lived in a house bordering the scenic park abutting Lake Street. On her retirement in 2008, she began tending and improving the garden, which had fallen into disrepair.
"She brought it back to life. She really did," said David Thornborough, assistant superintendent of parks.
But the 370-foot semicircular wall, painstakingly built piece by piece of natural-faced limestone about 75 years ago, was weathered and damaged.
Last year, Eagle Scout candidate Logan Clark decided to pursue the renovation. With contributions from the village and contractor Mike Graham, the old wall was unearthed and stabilized, leveled and cleaned, a project Graham estimated at a value of $40,000. The work was complete about a year ago.
"It was like modern-day archaeology," said Graham, who was on hand for the plaque unveiling. "They don't build these walls anymore. They're difficult to maintain and put together."
Village Trustee Jay Justice suggested a plaque might be in order. Language was carefully crafted and the unveiling timed so Carlson's son, Wally, and his wife, Caroline, from Coral Gables, Florida, could be there.
"This is the best I've ever seen it," said Wally. "Whenever we talked on the phone, she said how much she enjoyed it."
The plaque says Carlson's nurturing helped make the sunken garden, a popular spot for photos, a special place in town for all to enjoy.