By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer
WEST MIDDLESEX —
When West Middlesex resident Edna Rakoci passed away in 2010 at age 81, her daughter, Susan Rapp, set out on a mission to have her mom remembered for generations.
Rapp, of Butler, has fond memories of growing up with two brothers in a house her parents bought in 1958 on Oak Hill Drive, overlooking Kiwanis Park.
Their mom spent half a century watching her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren enjoy summer days in the park on the swings, teete totters, seesaws, and the long, chrome slide.
“It was just something we did since I was 4 years old,” said Rapp, now 63,. “It was a very common thing all my life.”
She said her mom loved West Middlesex and considered Kiwanis Park to be “her park.”
So when Rakoci died, Rapp’s mission to honor her turned into a yearlong project.
“I was thinking, ‘What can I do in her honor that people from West Middlesex would recognize?’” Rapp said.
The answer: A sturdy, long-lasting bench with a plaque that reads, “In Loving Memory of Edna Rakoci, 8/28/1929 – 12/18/2010, From her daughter Susan, Jeffrey & Camron.”
Jeffrey is Susan’s husband, Camron is her 12-year-old grandson whom they adopted after their son died unexpectedly.
“We put the bench up because my mom just loved the park,” Rapp said. “Any time any kids came she’d say, ‘Why don’t we go down to the park?’ ”
As a mother and grandmother carrying on the tradition of taking kids to her mom’s beloved park, Susan thought of the lack of seating.
“We just thought we picked the perfect place and the parents could sit there and watch their kids,” Rapp said.
In every step of the process to erect the bench, Susan used mostly West Middlesex contractors, cement layers, and business owners.
She obtained permission for the bench to be placed in the park from West Middlesex council and conferred with family friend and Councilman Ron Dubrasky.
They agreed that the bench could start a trend among others who love West Middlesex and want to honor a loved one.
The old friends pictured benches lined up along the creek they sloshed through in their shoes when they were kids.
“Maybe people would even donate to make the park a better place,” Rapp said. “I will always go there because that bench is there to honor my mother.”
She reminisced about her days as a child in West Middlesex.
“We walked to town. There was Benny’s grocery store, Jimmy’s department store, all on little Main Street in West Middlesex,” she said. “All these little places, and we’d walk clear down there and get a bag of groceries, stop and get an ice cream cone at Erickson’s and walk back up.”
She laughed about the times her mother would pack Susan and her brothers lunch and they would saunter down to the park that could be seen from the family’s porch.
“I just wanted something where people could look and say, ‘That lady lived way back then,’ or ‘That lady was remembered by her family,’ or ‘That lady really loved this park,’ ” Rapp said. “And after we had it in our mind, it probably took about a year.”
Reliving what turned into a therapeutic process for Rapp that ended successfully only about a month ago, made her smile.
“I just thought this was the best thing I can do in memory of my mother,” Rapp said. “If she was here, she’d be ecstatic.”