by Barbara Hengstenberg
Who Was Page Vernon, and Why is There a Park Named After Her?
I never met Page Vernon, but from all I’ve heard she was the epitome of compassion. A child welfare advocate, mentor, guardian ad litem, lawyer and judge, Page was highly respected in Chatham County as someone who always stepped up to the plate and did the right thing. According to Allen Baddour of the F3 Men’s Workout Group that meets weekly in Page’s namesake park, she led an “incredible life.”
Page Vernon practiced law in the Hall-London House, next door to what is now the park. A favorite spot of hers was in the shade of the pecan tree next to her office. Paul Horne, Parks Planner for the Town of Pittsboro, told me that the park sits on land donated by Page’s husband, Jim Vernon, and came together with town funds and support from the Trust of James Milton Johnson and Laura Blair Johnson, the Chatham County ABC Board and many other supporters.
Page Vernon Park is an environmentally friendly, 3,000 square foot pocket park. A portion of the park’s hardscape pavers are permeable. According to Horne, engineered layers of soil and aggregates help capture water to nourish trees, provide room for root grown and minimize downstream erosion. The park opened in the fall of 2015, two and a half years after Page’s death in 2013.
Since its opening, this small park has become a special gathering place. Retirees Dennis and Susie Milgate often stop to visit as they walk around town. Dennis shared that “a quiet place like Page Vernon Park is a most welcome rest.” Author Dwayne Walls, Jr., recently held his Backstage at the Lost Colony book signing there.
If you visit Page Vernon Park, sit a spell on what Bree Franklin calls “Ivy’s Bench.” She and her family adopted Ivy as a puppy here from Farm Friends Rescue during a First Sunday celebration in 2017. The Franklin family considers this park a “mighty peaceful place…a place to sit down and reflect on how incredibly fortunate we are to have been blessed with such a sunny, loving, smart pup.” Visitors may find a special painted rock by Ivy’s Bench, left by Bree and her family in the hopes of bringing a bit of cheer to others. Bree agrees with so many, that there is an “amazing sense of peacefulness and joy” in this park.
Seems this is a fitting tribute to Page Vernon, whose obituary noted that she passed on a “beautiful sunny morning, much like Page herself.”
Page Vernon Park is located at 110 Hillsboro Street, Pittsboro, NC. There is free wifi in the park and, according to Horne, plans are being considered for additional seating, public art and plantings. For more information on Page Vernon, interviews with members of her family, the construction of the park, and the dedication of the park, please enjoy this video.
Special thanks to the following for their input as this story developed: Paul Horne, Bree Franklin, Allen Baddour, Dwayne Walls, Jr., Dennis and Susie Milgate, Lesley Landis
Barbara Hengstenberg is a Pittsboro artist, writer, educator and the founder of WildesArt. She can be reached at Barbara@WildesArt.com or by visiting www.WildesArt.com