Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018
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PlayScape dedication recalls Olander Park founder Catherine Frye


Jim Frye, right, son of the late Catherine Frye and now of Columbia, Tenn., talks about his mother and her efforts to create Olander Park.

The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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There are some people who leave their mark on the world by erecting something physical, some spearhead a society-changing cause, and others are known by the imprint they leave on the hearts of others. Catherine Frye, a founder of Olander Park, did all of that.

PHOTO GALLERY: Catherine Frye remembrance

At 3 p.m. Sunday, about 50 people gathered at Olander Park in remembrance of the dreamer and lover of life, who left Sylvania a little better than how she found it, during her time here. She died in 1997 at the age of 82. During her life she worked tirelessly for the things she believed in, her son Ray Frye, 68, said.

That included making the grounds, now Olander Park, whose earth was used as a landfill, and then abandoned when an aquifer, now the lake, was discovered.

“She drove by that open field, and drive by, and drive by, and then she said this would make a nice park,” he said. “It was a place that found her.”

Mr. Frye traveled from Fountain Hills, Ariz., for the dedication ceremony that took place in the northern side of the park, where the PlayScape named after her, is beginning to sprout from the ground.

Everyone circled round as Erika Buri, park conservation manager, told them how the future playground, her idea, will be a place for children to run around free, to explore a creek, and other plants and natural surroundings, something that is rare now with residential developments.

“They will cross the bridge into a new world,” she said.

For Ms. Buri, who learned about her through Mrs. Frye's grandson, Jim Frye II, and the others that took turns talking about the memory of the loving Mrs. Frye, it was difficult to hold back tears.

“I’ve known her since I was 10 … I think about her all the time,” Toledo resident Chuck Hasty, 70, said. He told family members, relatives and park officials how Mrs. Frye was his Cub Scout den mother, and he and her sons Jim and Ray as youngsters would sneak into the park to fish, even though it was against the rules.

Having that opportunity to roam around Sylvania when it was less developed, was memorable he said, and that is why today the parks are important.

“Parks are the immortality business. You start a park and you are remembered forever,” park director Gary Madrzykowski said.

Everyone agreed that her spirit abounded.

Mrs. Frye’s youngest sister Theresa Hubbard, 85, of Avon, Ohio, was the last living sister of three, Loretta Blackard died several years ago.

"My sister was a get-up and going person till the end," Mrs. Hubbard said. She recalled how she worked with the senior citizens of Sylvania up until she passed away.

"My mother was a dreamer. She was able to take a dream and make it a reality," Mr. Frye said. Among her initiatives around Sylvania was holding its first Fourth of July celebration, he said.

She organized the fireworks, and a carnival. She made sure that every child left with something, he said.

Her granddaughter Tammy Frye Laster, of Jackson Tenn., said that Mrs. Frye had her priorities, God, family, friends, and community. By the tears that flowed and the hugs and embraces that took place between family members and old friends, it was evident that Mrs. Frye’s spirit and dreams are still alive in Sylvania.

“She’s here, I’m sure of it,” said her son Jim Frye 66, of Columbia, Tenn.

The PlayScape will be completed in August. Mrs. Frye initiated the park circa 1960. In 1963 she, and the other founders Milton Olander and Jack Callahan opened it to the public.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356 or 

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