From left, Jim Brueck, Hal Wheemhoff, Jonathan Smith, Robin Nance, Tom Lowrie, Ken Ermer, Dick Niazy, Emily Duthinh, and Eric Haven cut the ribbon to dedicate renovations and new equipment in the Depot Park playground, Sept. 22. Photo provided
Volunteers gathered to celebrate playground renovations in Depot Park with a ribbon cutting, Sept. 22, with special guest Robin Nance, whose son Evan inspired the train set decades ago.
Robin and Stephen Nance of Traverse City lived across the street from the park in the 1990s, with sons Andrew and Evan.
The newly renovated Evan’s Choo Choo collection was named after their son, who died of a rare condition in 1994.
“We are excited to hear the park is getting well cared for,” Stephen said in a letter to Tom Lowrie of Clarkston Area Optimist Club, which spearheaded the renovation effort.
Evan was born on July 9, 1990, when the family lived in California.
“We moved back to Michigan when he was about 8 months old. At about this time, Evan started having some health challenges and in the next few years my wife Robin did an amazing job of both helping Evan thrive as best he could,” Stephen said. “She worked with medical and alternative health practitioners to try to determine roots causes. Sadly, Evan got a virus in the winter of 1994 and passed away after a long stay in the hospital.”
After being in the hospital for 16 days, Evan passed away on Feb. 16, 1994. A subsequent autopsy revealed Evan had Leighs Disease, a rare genetic disease.
“After Evan’s death, so many kind friends, family and people in the community wanted to do something in memory of this sweet little boy,” he said. “That summer, a volunteer led rebuilding project of the playground provided the opportunity, as many contributed to the park and new equipment in Evan’s name. The train came about as Evan loved ‘choo choo’s.’ My wife, older son Andrew, and I were honored to be a part of the playground renovation in 1994.”
The new renovation project started last spring included strip and recoating work donated by Android Industries of Flint, and Clarkston Cultural Arts artists Denyse Couture and Dana Blust creating intricate and ornate artwork for them.
– Phil Custodio