STOW: A concrete path — dubbed Woody’s Walk — winds through a row of holly bushes, some Casablanca lilies, colorful mums and a vertical stone fountain, ending at twin trellises.
Next spring, wisteria will begin to grow on the trellis behind a stone stage, where Stow Municipal Court judges will preside over weddings.
The trellis in the other corner will host a trumpet vine and, hopefully, visiting hummingbirds.
The garden is a labor of love from Stow Municipal Court to a former magistrate, the late Robert “Woody” Woodside.
About 50 people stood on the path or sat near the stage under threatening clouds Thursday night to honor the memory of their friend and colleague as the garden was dedicated to Woodside and his wife, Marianne.
The concept of Woody’s Walk was a gift to Woodside at his 65th birthday party, in August 2008, before the court moved from Cuyahoga Falls to Stow.
Marianne Woodside said the walk is a fitting tribute.
“It honors him. He would be very pleased with it,” she said. “He would think that he wasn’t worthy of it. He was more about other people than himself.”
Woodside enjoyed gardening alongside his wife on the grounds of her childhood home in Doylestown, where they lived. He found joy in weeding the hostas and sharing the peonies that grew there. He would pick bouquets in early spring and summer and place them in Judge Lisa Coates’ chambers.
“It always made my office and my day brighter,” Coates said. She still thinks of Woodside when she smells peonies.
Woodside’s time on the bench began as a part-time magistrate in Barberton. He was “traded” to Cuyahoga Falls in 2004 for a retiring full-time magistrate who wanted to work part time.
As the courthouse in Stow was being built, Woodside was battling cancer. Working in the new courthouse was on her husband’s “bucket list,” Marianne Woodside said.
He got his wish, presiding over traffic court for five months after moving into the building on Courthouse Drive in January 2009.
“He loved life,” Marianne Woodside said. “If he taught us anything, it’s how to live well and die strong.”
When Woodside died in December 2009, work on Woody’s Walk had already begun.
Judge Kim Hoover designed the garden, while Coates configured the plantings. Marianne Woodside stayed involved from conception to reality, adding Woody’s personal touches and tweaking plans and plantings.
“We had to have water,” Coates said. “They had a beautiful spring pond on their property. And the white lilies – Casablancas – he loved them. And we knew we had to put in hostas.”
One neatly planted row of hostas leads from a courthouse exit door to the garden path. Once the trees and holly bushes are tall enough to provide needed shade, more hostas will be planted, Coates said. And there will be peonies.
Labor was provided by Hoover, Coates and especially court administrator Rick Klinger working alongside some of those sentenced by the judges and Magistrate John Clark to community service. They mowed, dug ditches, laid the stone wall that surrounds the garden, built the stone benches and planted flowers.
The stone was donated, from a bridge that was torn down. Many of the bushes and plants came from Damon’s, which closed last year. The judges made a deal to maintain the Damon’s property in exchange for some of the decorative grasses and bushes.
Working in the garden brought out the best in most of those doing community service, Hoover said.
And that in itself is a fitting tribute to a garden dedicated, as written on a marble plaque at the entrance, “To Robert [Woody] and Marianne Woodside, who always looked for the best in all of us.”