A groundbreaking ceremony Monday marked the beginning of improvements to Boles Park, which honors a family “that contributed to this community in many untold ways,” Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter said, adding, “This park will begin to help tell that story.”
The upgrades to the park, which sits on about five acres of land off Harris Trail donated by the Boles family to the city years ago, will be completed in phases, with the focus initially being on telling the stories of the Rev. David Boles Sr. and Sgt. Harry Lee Boles, according to Dr. Karen Boles Grant.
The Rev. David Boles Sr. was an area religious and secular community leader and a grandfather of Grant, a longtime educator who in turn has been a driving force behind seeing the park improved.
Harry Lee Boles wasGrant’s brother, and was killed in Vietnam in 1969.
At Monday’s ceremony, Grant recalled when Carpenter’s father, retired Richmond Hill postmaster Bobby Carpenter, went with soldiers to tell her father, Leslie Boles, of his son’s death, and went back three times before they found him at home.
Grant said Bobby Carpenter held his father while he cried as the news was delivered.
Also at the ceremony was Frances Meeks, a longtime educator and school board member whose name graces the county’s newest elementary school.
Meeks, who remained seated in a car during the ceremony, was there because “she’s my friend, she’s my former teacher, and she was my daddy’s friend,” Grant said. “Because of her, and my daddy, and Mr. Carpenter, the integration of schools in Bryan County was peaceful. We didn’t have the N_word flying all over the place. When we did, those kids got punished because of Ms. Meeks.”
Grant added, pointing toward Meeks, “And I love that woman sitting out there in that car, and she loves me.”
Meeks said of the park improvements: “I think it’s overdue, and I think it is a wonderful idea. I’m so glad they are doing it.” The Boles’ roots in Richmond Hill date back to at least 1833, and before that “got lost in the slave trade,” Grant said.
Carpenter said the city will continue to work to tell the family’s story because of their contributions to the community. “They are an important part of the fabric of Richmond Hill,” he said.