Two recognized for work on Bedford Village Common

by Susan Clark September 19. 2013 6:03PM
Beverly Thomas, left, and Jeanene Procopis were named Citizens of the Year by the Friends of the Town of Bedford Cemeteries for their many years of work on the Bedford Village Common. An award ceremony will take place Thursday, Sept. 26, at 7 p.m., at the Bedford Public Library. (Susan Clark Photo)
Walking paths, an ice skating pond and a tranquil area for recreation and town events have replaced a section of town that was once an eyesore full overgrown brush.

It took almost 20 years, but the Bedford Village Common finally came to fruition, thanks in part to two Bedford residents, Jeanene Procopis and Beverly Thomas.

On Sept. 26, Procopis and Thomas will be honored as Citizens of the Year by the Friends of the Town of Bedford Cemeteries. The award ceremony will take place at the Bedford Library from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

“We selected Jeanene and Bev as Citizens of the Year after much mulling over of candidates,” said Julie Schappals, co-chairman of the Friends of the Town of Bedford Cemeteries. “It was important to us that our selection reflect three major factors: an appreciation for our town’s unique heritage, a commitment to a project that benefits Bedford and an attitude that reflects ‘can do,’ combined with solid follow through. These are the kinds of qualities that we saw in Jeanne and Bev.”

While facing several challenges along the way, Procopis and Thomas were determined to give Bedford a town center park.

“We all know the Bedford Common was a long project that some opposed, yet Jeanne and Bev did not give up, nor did they stoop to unprofessional commentary but handled each obstacle with grace, good humor, courtesy and good judgement,” said Schappals. “Those are the traits that, in our view, make Bedford a special town and justify acclaim.”

This is the first time the award is being given to two people.

“It was impossible to justify a claim that one deserved an award more than the other, so we opted to recognize both. In this way, we hope to show that what makes Bedford special is often the result of cooperative activities, said Schappals.

Previous awards have gone to Doris Peck Spurway, town historian; Ralph Wiggin, former fire chief; former councilor David Danielson, who has been active in several committees and now serves as a state representative; and David Bailey, former police chief, who served Bedford for more than 40 years.

Thomas, who has lived in town for 25 years, said she was surprised to hear that she and Procopis were considered for the award, and to be in such good company with previous recipients.

Thomas said she feels humble.

“I don’t feel I belong in that same group,” she said.

Procopis offered a similar sentiment in receiving accolades from the Friends of the Cemeteries.

“I am honored to have been selected for the award and to be in the company with other recipients that demonstrated such remarkable community spirit,” said Procopis, who is a 23-year resident.

The best part of being involved in the planning of the park is the joy of seeing children and adults enjoying the Bedford Village Common, the women agreed.

“It is one of the few places in town which attracts all ages of our community. It is a wonderful spot for friends to gather, listen to musical performances in the bandstand, enjoy a good book on one of the park benches or take a quiet stroll with your dog,” said Thomas.

Procopis added that it makes her happy to see people enjoying the park, and also, “seeing people paying their respects at the Veterans Memorial, or to admire the lovely new garden at the park’s entrance.”

Procopis and Thomas have been involved in planning the park for several years, and both saw it as an opportunity to serve their community and provide a park for all to enjoy.

“I first became involved in 2001 when I joined a group of interested residents that met, informally, to discuss the possibility of developing a town center park at the corner of Bell Hill Road and Route 101,” said Procopis. “Just a few years prior to that, the town abandoned a plan for a park in that same location. In 2003, the Town Council responded to renewed interest in the project by establishing a formal park committee, the Bedford Village Common Committee, to develop the park.”

She was appointed to the committee in 2003 with six other residents. In 2009, she was appointed to a new committee, the Bedford Village Common Development Committee, formed by Town Council to raise money and oversee the construction of the park.

Thomas first heard about the park at a meeting in the late 1990s. She was appointed to the Bedford Village Common Committee in 2003, and served as chairman in 2005.

“I got deeper and deeper involved and felt determined to see it through to completion. I had no idea it would be a 10-year commitment,” she said. “It has been a long road but well worth the effort.”

The plan was to help fulfill the 2000 Parks and Recreation Planning Survey. In response to the survey, residents said they wanted walking trails, an outdoor skating area, picnic areas and a bandstand in town.

Plans changed along the way and, in 2005, the committee developed a park design that would appeal to people of all ages and abilities, including a skating area, picnic area, walking trails, park benches, a community bandstand and a Veterans Memorial.

“We decided to add lights throughout the park to allow for use after sundown, especially for winter skating,” said Procopis. “In 2012, the Veterans Memorial became more than a just vision when we finalized a plan and received donations for its construction. The Bedford Garden Club expressed interest in creating a new community garden at the entrance to the park. Club members installed the new garden in July.”

For all their accomplishments on the park, Procopis, Thomas and the committee still have work to do.

“We are hoping to develop a platform-like approach to the skating pond to make it easier for adults and kids to access it for winter ice skating. We plan to add birdhouses in the near future,” said Procopis.

She said since the park opened in June, all events are being scheduled through Jane O’Brien, the Parks and Recreation manager.

“Personally, I would love to see a military band perform at the bandstand with rousing cymbals and percussion,” said Procopis.

Procopis and Thomas are not new to serving Bedford, as each has a long resume.

Procopis has served on the executive boards of the Bedford Historical Society, the Bedford Garden Club and the Bedford Land Trust. She is committee chairman of the Bedford Garden Club and a trustee of the Bedford Land Trust. She has also served as a town councilor.

Thomas is past president of the Bedford Historical Society, a past board member of the Bedford Garden Club, and has chaired the club’s annual plant sale for several years. She also serves on the Bedford Historic District Commission.

But, Thomas and Procopis say they could not have done all the work alone and wish to acknowledge the many people who also had a hand in the park.

“Of course, we have had fabulous support from town employees, town councilors and past committee members over the years, but I’d like to specifically thank the current and immediate past committee members – Richard Poisson, Deb Sklar, Bill Dermody, Mac McMahan, Ken Peterson, Dennis Tokac, our volunteer landscape architect consultant Anne Cruess and, especially, vice chair Jeanene Procopis, who has shown unwavering dedication and commitment over the years to bring this project to fruition,” said Thomas.

Procopis seconded the gratitude to the people above and to Thomas, adding that the park’s success is due to the dedication of many people.

“Throughout a number of years with many meetings and many discussions of issues, this group of people continued to be dedicated to building a beautiful park in our town center,” she said.

They would also like to thank Bedford residents and local businesses for their support through financial contributions, personal notes of gratitude, complimentary letters to the editor and continued encouragement along the way, said Thomas.

General NewsHuman InterestOutdoorsBedford

Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Facebook Follow our RSS feed
Union Leader app for Apple iPad or Android *
Click to download from Apple Apps StoreClick to download from Android Marketplace
* e-Edition subscription required