Linda Garvin Memorial Bench Dedication Ceremony at Midre Cummings Playground Park Saturday

Linda Garvin (Photo by Bill Boyton)

“Let the Children Play!” is the mantra that will echo the legacy of the late Linda Garvin at the Dedication Ceremony at the Midre Cummings Playground Park at the north end of Frederiksted on Saturday, at 10 a.m. 

Linda Garvin and her husband, Bill Boyton, joined the Frederiksted community in 2010 and made it their home. Together, they organized beach cleanups, personally picked up trash on their daily walks, and were instrumental in heading up the neighborhood watch…so that everyone in the community felt safe and included, and they did much, much more.

Garvin passed from this earthly plane last year after her arduous battle with cancer, yet the memories of the strength of character that she embodied will live on in her love of the community that she embraced as her own.  

Owners of Sandcastle on the Beach Hotel, Chris Richardson and Ted Bedwell, shared their recollections of Linda and Bill as a “power couple” who were always willing to do a myriad of tasks and never wanted any kind of notoriety or recognition. They were just being good citizens, Richardson said. “It was something they did – that you don’t see many people do – particularly those who have some age on them –  if you will – to get out there and do the work.”

“In the depths of Linda’s illness, we would still see her pick up trash. That was so inspirational and made me aspire to want to live that way, as well,” he said.

“We are all very proud of the children’s park. They worked on coordinating the efforts of the community…producing something the whole community can feel a huge part of and a commitment to its manifestation,” Richardson shared.

Boyton, two of Linda’s former theater students and a couple of friends talked about what they could do that was special to honor her after her passing. They began to brainstorm and with the completion of the park being so recent and so important, they felt they needed to come up with something that everyone could remember the life that Linda was and still is to many people without it being a sad thing.

“That was really important to Linda that there was not any sadness about her passing, but more about the celebration of her being,” Richardson said as they began to make plans for a bench as evidence of her legacy.

Dedicated Playground Bench (Photo by Bill Boyton)

“I think this bench is really going to embody her spirit – giving back to the community – a place for respite – for rest – and in the middle of an area that was so important to her,” he said.

Bedwell said, “My key is that they were such giving individuals, such positive community citizens. They always put community before self. There are not a lot of people who are capable of that – or who are even conscious of the different things that are needed in a community.”

“If you walk around our property [Sandcastle on the Beach], there are orchids all around that they thought would enhance the area. We didn’t ask them to do that. They have ‘the orchid hospital’ at their home. They would restore orchids that were on the brink of death and would cultivate them. When they started to bloom they brought them to the hotel so that guests would enjoy them. Bill still does that. They were so unselfish,” Bedwell shared.

Betsy Marsala and Anthony Jackson were high school students in Linda’s theater class in Cave Creek, Arizona, during the years 2003-2007, with Jackson and Marsala as president and vice-president, respectively, of the drama club.

Marsala said, “I felt so fortunate that Linda and I kept up our relationship after we graduated, which is very true to Linda’s spirit. She continually checked in on Anthony and me when we were in college. We both pursued theater.”

Marsala traveled to St.Croix three times to visit Linda and Bill and she and Anthony kept in touch over the years, as well. 

“I did theater for the first four to five years after moving to Chicago. Per usual, it feels like Linda’s spirit has a way of bringing people together,” she said. 

“[It sounds a little ‘woo woo’ if you will]. Even after her passing, it still was true for us – in a sense, that when she died last year, several of the students and I reconnected over social media to make sure everyone knew,” Betsy said.

That’s when they all started sharing stories and remembered how “this woman made such a huge difference in our lives – what can we do to make sure her legacy lives on.”

“It was pretty powerful for me to read so many testimonials about Linda and Bill, for that matter – they were such a power couple – and how they influenced us…at least for that specific group of students. Linda had a huge influence on two areas outside of the family, which was Cave Creek, Arizona students there and St. Croix,” Betsy said.

Knowing that all of Linda’s students could not travel to St. Croix, the students talked about how amazing it could be to do two ceremonies – one in Arizona and one on St.Croix that honored her legacy in both areas.

Claire Roker was pivotal in getting approval from the Commissioner of the Sports, Parks and Recreation Department Calvert White.

“Chris Richardson was a huge help, and all the local people were what was needed to get a bench on St. Croix a reality,” Marsala said. “We really wanted this to be a tangible expression of Linda’s legacy, a reminder of how important play is – and children – and all the things she wanted us to value, which she lived out everyday of her life.”

Marsala is excited to have this memento and this physical representation of what Linda’s values were installed at the park. “It’s beautiful and even more special to know it was built by the people on St. Croix. It’s just amazing. I think it’s a testament. She’s a leader, but also, she was not afraid to step back and empower people to step up. As a leader, I find that challenging, yet she was able to do that so effortlessly. I have a lot of respect for her.”

Marsala said she is excited to return to the St.Croix community. “This will be a great way to move forward with a legacy in physical form.”

One of the things Jackson said he takes away from knowing Linda is living a life in the arts. “There are different ways that it can manifest in my life. I know that even if I’m not going to be acting in the way that I thought I was in high school, I know I’ll always maintain a life in the arts.”

“Linda always maintained a presence in my life. When I went to college, I studied musical theater. On my first trip to New York, Linda actually took me there. We’ve been very close all my life.”

Jackson visited St. Croix in 2023 when Linda was very sick and he spent time with her and Bill. It was a special trip, he said, and it had a huge impact on the three of them. 

Because Linda had such a lasting impact on the people she encountered, Jackson thought of a way for a physical manifestation of the places where she had the most impact and the places that were the most important to her. There was a separate effort happening in Cave Creek in the theater where she worked and where the students would perform all of their shows. It is the Cave Creek Unified District Fine Art Center where Linda worked and retired after 24 years. Andrew Cupo and Evelyn Holbrook, who run that facility, spearheaded the bench ceremony in Cave Creek. 

Jackson and Marsala were a part of that effort.

Dedication Inscription on Bench (Photo by Bill Boyton)

“When I was on St. Croix last year, Linda really emphasized how important the playground project was to her. It impressed upon me what a huge impact she had on that project and what a huge impact St. Croix had on her life in return. I thought it would be nice to have some sort of corresponding, physical and tangible representation of her impact on St. Croix, as well,” Jackson said. He and Marsala were instrumental in getting the bench idea started on St. Croix. 

Jackson still performs and auditions for some films and TV. He works as a freelancer in digital marketing and design. He says his life is not exactly how he thought it would be, but he thinks it’s great that he still gets to be in the arts and can participate and exercise the muscles he developed as a kid, which he still loves.

“It’s great thinking about what Linda instilled in me as a person. What comes to mind are three things — the importance of play, support, and authenticity. I still really find myself abiding by and searching for them in people and in the things that I do in my life. I can trace those things back to my time with Linda and knowing her. Those things are also so important to her in all the work that she did. And then…I’m looking at the bench in the playground…I’m thinking it’s providing literal support where you can sit, and the playground was so important to her as an authentic part of the community, and the community literally built it.”

“All of these sections of these things that were so important to her continue to be important in my life. It all continues to surprise me – even in her passing,” he said.

The Bench Project Committee will have folding chairs around the bench area. It would be helpful if folks brought their own chairs, as well. There will be cold water available. The committee has put together a short program to recognize and thank the Sports, Parks, and Recreation Department commissioners, the GoFundMe donors who raised over $6,000 to fund the project, and the host of volunteers who made this all possible. 

Bill Boyton invites the community to celebrate the memory of Linda Garvin and her personal dedication to this playground where we can proudly declare: “LET THE CHILDREN PLAY!”