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Huntington Woods gazebo to be built in memory of Rachel Jacobs

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published August 26, 2015




HUNTINGTON   WOODS — Ron Davis’ late mother, Mary Kay Davis, was an active Huntington Woods resident and a valued community member, so to remember her, a small park right off Lincoln Drive was named in her honor in 1999.

Now, Ron Davis wants to help honor another family in the Huntington Woods community by placing a gazebo in Mary Kay Davis Park in honor of Rachel Jacobs, a Huntington Woods native who died in an Amtrak train crash in Philadelphia earlier this year.

Davis already had donated $5,000 to the city to build a gazebo in the park, but since the money had yet to be spent, Davis approached City Manager Amy Sullivan about honoring Jacobs with the gazebo and paying the entire cost to install it.

The Recreation Advisory Board and the City Commission have approved the project, and the final step is for the Planning Commission to approve the project. Davis hopes that construction can  begin in the fall.

“My wife has been best friends with Gilda (Jacobs, Rachel Jacobs’ mother) since they were 4 years old, and Rachel was very special to her,” Davis said. “If there is a Jewish equivalent to a goddaughter, Rachel was that to my wife. We want to commemorate her life and have a place where people in the community could possibly gather and have a nice place to remember her.”

Davis, who grew up in Huntington Woods but moved away when he left for college, said he is happy to cover the entire cost of the 12-foot white octagon gazebo, which is estimated to be nearly $10,500.

The whole concept of the gazebo came about as Davis wanted a place for people to gather at Mary Kay Davis Park.

“My mother would have liked something like this, and Mayor (Ron) Gillham asked me if I would be interested in helping with the project,” Davis said. “A lot of high school students go there for prom for pictures, and it has become a gathering place, so some sort of structure would be nice. Now, with Rachel’s unfortunate death, it is much more important to have it designated in her name.”

Rachel Jacobs was a passenger on the Northeast Regional Train No. 188 that was traveling May 12 from Washington to New York when it derailed in Philadelphia. Jacobs, 39, was one of eight people killed in the crash, and more than 200 passengers were treated following the crash.

Jacobs was a 1993 graduate of Berkley High School and was the CEO of ApprenNet in New York at the time of her death. She was survived by her mother, father, sister, husband and 2-year-old son.

Gilda Jacobs, a former state senator and representative, said she and her family were moved that the city and Davis wanted to build a gazebo in her daughter’s name.

“I was at the park dedication of the sign in the name of Mary Kay and her memory, and was there with her family, so it is kind of a wonderful coming together now in a way we never thought for both our families,” she said. “This is a meaningful thing to have this dedication in my daughter’s memory in the park, and we are touched.”

Parks and Recreation Director Mary Gustafson said a site has been selected for the gazebo in the center of Mary Kay Davis Park. The plan is expected to be approved by the Planning Commission during the commission’s next meeting.

To have people in the community supporting the idea, Gustafson said, is a reflection of the type of people in Huntington Woods.

“This is what Huntington Woods is all about,” she said. “People care about Huntington Woods and want to help others, whether that is doing something in the name of someone else or donating in some way. This gazebo will be a wonderful addition to that park and will be well-used.”

Gilda Jacobs said she spoke with Davis about the plans for the gazebo and feels comfortable leaving the ultimate decisions in his hands.

Following the passing of her daughter, Jacobs said, the community support was great, and the gazebo is a continuation of that support.

“We were not surprised, really, but we were moved and appreciated the outpouring of love and support of friends and family and community,” she said. “Our daughters were brought up in Huntington Woods and had the best family experience we could have. Now I can bring my grandson to the gazebo, and it will be a nice way for him to have a quiet reflection about how wonderful his mom was.”