• Tricia Jones

Dedication of the Learn and Play with Mary Kay Play Space

Dec 17 2015

On December 10, 2015, GFCC held a dedication ceremony for the new Learn and Play with Mary Kay Play Space. Sandy Duncan (GFCC's director), Lauren Efird (Minister of Youth and Congregational Care at GFBC), and Ken Foulke (husband of Mary Kay) shared their thoughts, memories, and prayers to honor a dear teacher and friend to GFCC.

Hear these words from Ken Foulke:

For those of you who don’t me, I’m Ken Foulke. I was the husband of Mary Kay.

We are here today to dedicate this space to the memory of Mary Kay Foulke who taught at Greenwood Forest for 30 years.

I would like to thank all of those who helped and participated in making this memorial a reality: friends and relatives of Mary Kay who donated to the fund, the people involved in designing this space: Sandy Duncan, Bill Coleman, Suzanne Edny, Susan Parrish, Meghan Brown, and Dave and Wanda Johnson who literally did the "heavy lifting" by constructing this space. Without you, Dave and Wanda, this would not have been possible. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

When Mary Kay passed away about 15 months ago, our daughter Meghan, who you will hear from in a little while suggested that we needed to do something to honor Mary Kay’s memory, but we didn’t know what to do. Surprisingly, although we knew that Mary Kay had taught at GFCC for a very long time, neither of us realized that it had been 30 years. Learning that from Sandy, it was obvious where we should have a memorial. It had to be at GFCC.

Of course what shape and form the memorial was to take was another question. Earlier this year a group of us got together here at GFCC to see what we could do. A number of ideas were proposed but the one that stood out was a teaching and learning space, an outdoor classroom if you wish. A space where a teacher and the children could get together to learn and play. Those words, learn and play, are critical since Mary Kay always told me that small children learn through play and by playing with others they learn.

Our concept was, “…a compact, whimsical, play and learning space to excite and stimulate the children’s senses and imagination through color, design and motion….”

I believe this space represents what we set out to do. It’s obviously colorful, blindingly so in some cases. The primary color had to be green. With a name like Mary Kathleen Bridget McCarthy, green was the only choice and it was Mary Kay’s favorite color as well.

Those of you who worked with her knew she loved color. From her wild earrings, to her loud, mismatched socks, to her beloved “orange” jacket covered with animals, to her brown, green, and yellow crocs – all of those colors are represented here as well as some others. The extra wide “Teacher’s Chair," the small picket fence around a planting area and the green surfacing are expressions of her love of color and meant to stimulate the children’s senses.

The whirligig, the dwarf Crape Myrtle surrounded by grass plantings are meant to excite the children’s senses and imagination. The small seating area in front of the plants can also be used as a “stage” for the children. My first thought today seeing the Crape Myrtle however, was that it looks a little like “Charlie Brown’s Xmas Tree” with the few leaves on it in place of the traditional ornament.

Attached to the fence are figures of playful dogs with chalkboards for the children to do whatever they wanted to do on them. Mary Kay loved dogs. As a child growing up, she had two dogs, Butchy and Wiggles. We couldn’t possibly leave them out.

I’ve seen this space in use and it’s apparent that it does represent Mary Kay’s spirit in many ways and is doing exactly what we had hoped it would do. Since it is Christmas time, I remember her telling me “her Christmas Story” many years ago, before we were even married. It was a personal version of “A Visit from St. Nick." In it she is very young, about the ages of the children she taught. On a cold, snowy Christmas Eve in Rochester, NY very late, she heard strange noises, sounds coming from outside of the house she lived in, she heard doors open and closing, as well as noises on the roof that only a small child could hear. Once the noises stopped, she went to the window and saw tracks in the snow. She wondered, was it really him? She got up the courage to get up and go downstairs very quietly. It was early Christmas Day now and being young………there sitting under the tree was the one doll in the whole world that she wanted. Her Christmas was merry.

Mary Kay told this story each year to her class, all of her children around her, sitting quietly, hanging on every word, enthralled by the images she was creating and the picture she was painting for them………

When I look at the play space I can easily see her sitting in the Teacher’s Chair, telling that same story again……..

Thank you and Merry Christmas.

Ken Foulke

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