When Lattie Brown moved to Charlotte from Texas in 1968, a classmate at South Meck High School quickly dubbed him “Tex,” and a young lady named Millie caught his eye.

“I was the ‘new guy,'” said Tex with a chuckle. “I guess the girls hadn’t seen one in a while.”

Their young love blossomed under the trees in Freedom Park, where Tex and Millie would sit on a favorite bench and feed the ducks. One special bird, a white one, was Millie’s favorite. She called him “Spot” and even put a collar around his neck.

The years flew by and Tex and Millie went off to college — he, to UNC-Charlotte, and she, to Grady School of Nursing in Atlanta. But true love brought them back together, and they got married and graduated from UNCC in the summer of 1973.

Careers took them around the country, and eventually brought them back to Charlotte in the late 1990’s. They had grown children by then, and grandchildren, and their memories brought them back to their special bench in Freedom Park where they could enjoy watching ducks, as they did when they dated.

Sadly, cancer claimed Millie after 38 years of marriage, and Tex wanted a way to remember the good times, as he sat on their bench overlooking the lake.

That’s why a bench in Freedom Park now bears Millie’s name.

Partners for Parks understands how many of us seek the comfort of nature to feel closer to those who no longer share our earth, and provide a tangible way to remember loved ones with its Memorial Bricks, Trees, and Benches program.

“Folks can include a bench, a tree, or a plant, and have engraved bricks or plaques in honor of family, or friends, or pets who loved our parks,” says Al Brown, Treasurer of Partners for Parks.

For more than 20 years, Mecklenburg County residents have been able to sponsor a way to remember a loved one and improve their local parks at the same time. Freedom Park, Fourth Ward Park, and the Little Sugar Creek Greenway have all been beneficiaries of this program, and its success has allowed it to expand to all Mecklenburg County parks. ALL proceeds from memorials purchased by residents go right back into enhancing and beautifying their parks as centerpieces of their neighborhoods.

“These park improvement memorials can be found in many parks across the county parks system,” says Brown. “They add beauty and functionality to our parks and greenways, while making a wonderful memorial statement about someone who loved our parks and the benefit they provide to our community.”

Patrons can choose to pay for an engraved brick, a bench or tree, or a combination of memorials. The donor works with the Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation Team to determine what fits in a particular spot along a greenway, park path, or as part of a garden area. Donations are made directly to Partners for Parks, making them 100% tax-deductible. Partners for Parks then pays the vendors of the trees, benches, or bricks, while providing the personalized service and logistics for free.

During the past two years, more than 100 donations like these have raised $32,000 to beautify local parks. The program allows a loved one’s memory to live on forever in a place everyone can enjoy, and allows Partners for Parks to live up to its goal: to breathe life into our community.

Mecklenburg County and Partners for Parks encourage patrons to find a special park for their memorial, like Tex did for Millie. In fact, Freedom Park already had its fill of memorials so Tex worked with the county for three years to come up with a plan. In the end, they replaced an old, rusted bench with one future lovebirds could enjoy.

Who knows if Spot will show up. But to Tex, that “spot” in the park will always be special, and he’s glad others can now enjoy it as much as he and Millie did.

If you are interested in creating a memorial, contact Blaine Gregory at Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation at Charles.Gregory@mecklenburg.gov or visit the site.

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