Published October 26, 2015 Tyler Morning Telegraph:

The Children’s Park of Tyler has a special meaning for Smith County Judge Joel Baker and his family. Not only did his late father, C.C. Baker Jr., strongly support the park, but it now features a home named in honor of his late sister, Alison.

“Her middle name was Joy and what Alison brought into this world was just that,” Judge Baker said. “That was her purpose in life, to bring joy.”

The Children’s Park of Tyler also has a strong place in the heart of Latoya Bell, whose husband, First Sgt. Russell Bell, liked to walk in the park whenever they visited Tyler, and he would talk about his sister whose name is represented on one of its stones.

When he died while serving the United States in Afghanistan in 2012, Mrs. Bell and her mother and father-in-law later decided the Children’s Park would be the perfect place to honor him. Their desire was met in the form of a flagpole during the completion of Phase II at the park.

About 3:30 p.m. Sunday at The Children’s Park, these were just some of the stories told by family members of those whose memories will continue to live on in the park through the completion of Phase II and Alison’s House.

Executive Director and Park Founder Jennifer Carson said it was important, even through the rain, to celebrate the park’s newest additions with the community.

“It’s a community-built park,” Mrs. Carson said. “It wouldn’t be here without the community and just the generosity of all of our donors and our volunteers that have made it possible.”

In addition to Alison’s House, some of the projects completed in Phase II include: a bridge, large critters for kids to play on, a butterfly garden, a prayer garden, a sitting area and a flagpole.

Mrs. Carson said these things give park visitors more space and activities.

“It provides more space for people to just be still that may want to come and sit and maybe bring their lunch and just kind of hang out,” Mrs. Carson said. “Just from what I’ve observed, the little kids love climbing those critters.”

Mrs. Carson is also excited about all the things Alison’s House offers.

“You have a million dollar view of the park from the top deck and so it’s available for anybody that wants to do any type of small group or business meeting or luncheon or weddings,” Mrs. Carson said. “It’s just a small event venue for people that want to rent it. I’m sure there are things that we can’t even imagine that people are going to want to use it for.”

Beyond all the amenities the home will provide, Mrs. Carson said Alison’s house is significant because it represents yet another way C.C Baker Jr. has helped the Children’s Park.

His widow, Brenda Baker, can recall the vision her husband had in imagining what the Children’s Park at Tyler could become.

“So when we first began to talk about a children’s park and a place to have it, this was nothing but an overgrown, swampy area,” Mrs. Baker said. “Lo and behold, who would have ever have dreamed it would look like this.”

While the beauty of the Children’s Park, and it new additions, continues to amaze many of those who visit, those who have lost children and relatives are also able to find comfort in what the park means to them.

“With my husband’s death it was tragic, heartbreaking,” Mrs. Bell said. “I deal with it every day. But, when there is a loss, always good can come from that loss.”

Staff writer Cory McCoy contributed to this story.