Toledo is a little drabber with the death of Betty Mauk at age 93. There were few people like her in her prime, and there are even fewer today.
Mrs. Mauk was one of a kind -- a Toledo original. She is the reason there is a Promenade Park for us to enjoy. At her insistence, the park included a walkway along the Maumee River, which she envisioned as an important city resource long before riverscapes and riverwalks became fashionable urban accouterments.
Brought up in an Old West End that had not yet lost its glory, Mrs. Mauk attended elite private schools, hobnobbed with the area's beau monde, and traveled to France more than 50 times. She was a Junior Leaguer and founder of a local club -- the Alliance Francaise -- that celebrated all things French.
Her love of France inspired her to direct her attention 40 years ago to Toledo 's nonexistent public waterfront. She didn't just want a waterfront park. She wanted to re-create the feel and flavor of Paris along the banks of the Maumee.
Her vision of a park filled with "trees, flowers, footpaths, ponies, boat rides, theatrical activities, music, and crepes," was never fully realized, but not because of a lack of effort. She discussed revitalization with then-Blade co-publisher Paul Block, Jr., with whom she shared an interest in downtown planning.
Her unique sensibility led her to do more than advocate the park. She opened a food stand -- La Creperie -- in the park to cook and sell the thin pancakes popular in France. She had a round, 12-foot-tall kiosk brought from France, on which groups could advertise cultural events.
When people describe Mrs. Mauk, they use words such as "indefatigable" and "strong-willed." As city officials plan to renovate Promenade Park, they should draw inspiration from her vision.
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