The Herald Bulletin

July 1, 2013

Scott Underwood: Park as unique -- and historically important -- as its namesake


— Elmo A. Funk is quite a name.

The first name evokes images of a fuzzy (if somewhat annoying) Sesame Street character. The surname ... well, it’s nothing if not funky.

But for generations in Anderson, the name Elmo Funk has been much more than just an oddity. The name is synonymous with community service. The Anderson Rotary Club, for example, recognizes an Elmo Funk Award winner each year for local contributions.

Along Historic West Eighth Street, Elmo A. Funk Park stands as a reminder of the Funk family’s contributions to the city. In 1973, Elmo’s son, Thomas, donated the land where the park now sits.

It’s a great place for lots of purposes. Some couples have chosen to get married in the park, taking shelter under a spacious gazebo with a decorative brick floor. Others may come to admire the great variety of leafing and flowery plants.

But the park might be best for just plain relaxing, particularly on a summer eve. Sit on one of the wrought-iron benches and let the sounds of the tiered fountain wash over you while you sip a soft drink. I’d recommend a Coke, in honor of Elmo Funk’s past ownership of the local Coca-Cola bottling company.

The park’s historic aura is abetted by the 19th-century gas street lights that illuminate it at night. Local company Continental Inc. restored the lights a few years ago.

When I pass the park, I think of Stan Guilkey, who lived along Historic West Eighth Street and devoted untold hours (and resources) to helping make the thoroughfare a memorial to Anderson’s past gas-era glory. Stan, who passed away in August 2011, owned and operated a funeral home not far from Funk Park.

The Historic West Eighth Street Neighborhood Association takes painstaking care of the park, blending a simple symmetry of trees and flower beds with a carpet of deep, lush ivy.

In Elmo A. Funk Park, man’s control over nature is calculated to let flora flourish — and to lift the human spirit.