What a privilege it was for my brother and me to represent our dad at the Ronald Naasko Playground dedication last Saturday in Corvallis, Oregon. Many of his friends, including several of the children he mentored, turned out for the event. It was wonderful to see them, and to learn how fondly they remember him. One of them even keeps a picture of my dad on his wall. This makes me happy.
The bronze plaque bearing his name has yet to be installed, but we saw it and we held it. It was so beautifully made.
The playground itself is a single structure, at this point, but it’s a striking one that doubles as art. In combination with the play fountains nearby it’s good fun for kids of all ages, especially in the summer months. I hope the city continues to add to it as funds allow. A musical feature is planned for the future.
Both my brother and I spoke to the friends and community groups gathered to honor my dad. I spoke of his work with children and how he hoped he was sowing seeds for a kinder, more tolerant world.
My brother spoke of Dad’s work as a peacemaker and how he would think this playground recognition would be the most significant of his whole life.
It’s worth noting that this honor was bestowed upon my father for the work he embarked upon in the last third of his life, after my brother and I had left for college.
The first third of his life was cut short by war. The second was spent raising and providing for a family.
It was the last third — his empty nest years — that was the truly the work of his life, and it was dedicated to peace. He sought it for himself, and for others by doing the slow, measured, plodding work of peace. It calls us all, doesn’t it? Dad particularly hoped this work would one day help the human species to evolve beyond war. It feels a long way off, but he said it would happen one day.
Working with children, encouraging their questions, providing a consistent and kind presence, and sowing seeds of tolerance were his contributions toward that effort. He did it not with perfection, but with intention. There’s meaning in that for me. Perhaps there is for you, too.
As my brother said in his remarks at the ribbon cutting, “The playground here breathes life into the hope for a more peaceful world…this breath is real and it flows in and out of the children, families and neighbors who will play here.”