Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lola McKee's contributions honored

Anonymous donor funds park bench at Swingset Park

She was called the neighborhood's "unofficial mayor", the "matriarch of the Park", and a lot of other laudatory things during her long tenure as a Madison Park community leader.  But at age 87, Lola McKee, longtime owner of Madison Park Hardware (which she sold in 2010), has slowed down a bit. Though still a resident of the Park (where she and her husband originally came to live in 1956), she's no longer an automatic attendee at the various neighborhood meetings and civic functions where her presence was once assumed and her personality so strongly felt.

We understand that Lola doesn't get out much anymore, but if she choses to do so she can now sit on a bench installed in her honor at Swingset Park and enjoy the newly invigorated Lake Washington view from an easy-access spot near the sidewalk.  The bench, a generous gift of a Madison Park resident who wishes to remain anonymous, was installed by a Parks crew last month and is situated just north of the bus stop at 43rd Avenue E. and E. Lynn Street at what is officially known as "Madison Park North Beach."

The benefactor had this to say about why he chose to commemorate Lola's contributions to Madison Park in this way: "I, like so many I know, so much respect her integrity, her community spirit, leadership, generosity, and good will." He adds that Lola's operation of Madison Park Hardware also exemplified her love and support of the neighborhood. "At the hardware store, it was all about the customer," he says, "long before Amazon made that their mantra." She always was thinking, "How can we better serve the customer with quality products at reasonable cost?"  Not to mention carrying items of low turnover that most stores would not bother with but that she felt someone in the neighborhood might sometime need.

He tells the story of meeting Lola at her store some 40 years ago and asking if she had a particular item in stock. She told him, "If I don't have it, you don't need it!"  But when it turned out that she didn't have the particular item (which was actually a jacket button, not hardware), she found a source that helped get him the match.

Lola was asked if she would like to be photographed for this story sitting on her bench, but she declined because of modesty, according to her daughter, Cookie. We know what she would have said to us if we had asked in person: "Oh no, a shot of me would break your camera!" Because that's what she always says.

Lola's bench is one of two new benches to grace Swingset Park since the fence was removed in late summer. The other bench, along the sidewalk to the south, has this inscription on the plaque set into the concrete base: "Dedicated to Coconut Roman Emperor Dream Maker Valentine - 2012."  At least one other new bench is slated for installation at Swingset Park. The collection of donations for the installation of benches at City parks is a program of the Seattle Parks Foundation, information for which is available here.

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