Couple’s love story extends to community

Couple’s love story extends to community
Ronald and Carol Easter

A familiar sight to anyone driving or walking past Stinson Park is Ronald and Carol Easter, walking their rambunctious black Maltipoos Callie and Abbey as they collect trash in the picturesque riverfront park on the Fairfax side of the Ortega Bridge. Married 48 years, the couple care deeply for each other – and for the community. The daily ritual is something they must do, they said.

“The park is always crowded and we don’t like children to see garbage…we want it clean for them and we’re helping the community,” said Carol, 69. “We’ve lived in Fairfax Manor since our marriage in 1966, when my grandmother Nora Quillen went house-hunting for us and found the perfect home. Stinson Park is so beautiful, picking up the trash makes a big difference.”

Paper trash isn’t the only thing they have to pick up, unfortunately. The haul includes every kind of liquor bottle, cans and far too many unsafe and illegal items. Nothing surprises the Easters any longer after cleaning the park since Carol’s 2011 retirement. She worked 37 years for Duval County School Board Human Resources.

“There’s trash that is shocking and then there’s the flowers left everywhere after weddings, forgotten decorations, plastic, party and picnic leftovers. The reason we also clean the base of the Ortega Bridge is to gather all the fishing lines and anything else that could hurt children, dogs, birds, fish or aquatic life,” they said.

The Easters commend the city for doing a good job of emptying trash receptacles, although on holidays they usually need large garbage bags for overflow, especially after July 4th and New Year’s. It’s clear that although they’ve found the perfect way to help out and are constantly thanked, they’d like to be out of a job.

“If only visitors would discard their trash, or if more people like us would help keep it clean!” she said. “Our concern now is that about 20 percent of the bricks were removed from the paved octagon and thrown into the river. We notified the city, but no response. Ronald pulls them out and recently someone replaced about half. We’ve put a sign up, but bad things like that in the park usually happen overnight.”

It’s not easy to get an updated park report from the Easters, who during this interview were cooking a homemade meal for a neighbor fighting cancer and recovering from surgery. The couple cherish their neighbors who, during 1980 and long after, helped them survive every parent’s worst nightmare.

“We have two children, Gretchen Frazier, a teacher at Hendricks Elementary, and our son David, 44. When David was 9, riding his bike, he was hit by a vehicle on Marquette Avenue and suffered massive brain damage. Neighbors, friends and family rallied round and helped us every step of the way. Our son was comatose, paralyzed and barely alive,” she said. “After arduous years of recovery, 157 operations and rehabilitation he’s able to live independently. The doctors said there’s no medical reason to explain how David survived. He’s a living miracle.”

Carol grew up with her mother, Ferne Crow, and two sisters on Riverside Avenue and later lived in Venetia. She met Ron Easter of Murray Hill on a blind date at Penny’s Drive-in located where The Loop operates on St. John’s Avenue. After they married, Ron, now 75, worked for Boyager Insurance before starting his own business, Master Clean, in 1972. The couple has three grandchildren, fireman Wade Painter, nurse Caroline Painter and Gracie Frazier, 11, who is always ready to help her grandparents clean up the park.

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

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