While this past Saturday may have been just a normal day for some, for others it was a day of honor and dedication as the Page Branch Park Committee, City Officials and members of the Donnelly family came together to remember Bob Donnelly.
“When we met in 1991 Bob was living in Delwood, which is where he is from,” explained Tonya Donnelly, his wife. “He was a city boy dying to get out and move to the country and I was the country girl trying to get out to the city and when we met, I had no plans of bringing a man into my life.”
Tonya went on to say how she didn’t want to be in a relationship but Bob was so persistent telling her how much he liked her and wanted to see her, she ended up going on a date with him. A short time later they were engaged and a year later they wed.
“We couldn’t decide where we wanted to move, seeing that my family was still here in Elsberry,” said Tonya. “I wasn’t sure that I wanted to leave my home, family and my friends. But I also wanted to try so we compromised and signed a lease in Riverview.”
Tonya said that move was a short one as just a few months into their lease a person was killed right outside their doors. At the time Bob was working nights. Needless to say, it was an easy decision for them to break lease and head back home.
“My dad rented a U-Haul and we moved into the home right across the street from them,” said Tonya. “And that was it, we never left again.”
According to her, when Bob got to Elsberry he was so in love with the community that even right before he passed away, he was working diligently on making sure Page Branch Park could be something the entire community would be proud of. In fact, when he would get done working for the day, he would come home, grab something to eat and head off to the park to work. Sometimes he would bring his son’s Jake and Jordan, who spent countless hours working alongside their dad clearing brush, back hoeing the back part of the park and finding any way they could to spruce the place up.
Bob Donnelly passed away in 2009 from cancer. On Saturday, Aug. 24 Page Branch Park opened up the Bob Donnelly Bird Sanctuary. According to the Troy Garden Club of, Bob ran the bobcat, hauled rock and brought in retaining blocks donated by Schrieder Concrete. He also participated in many fundraisers, collected merchandise from Elsberry and all neighboring communities and several other activities to help raise funds for the construction of the park.
“He wanted a place people could be proud of,” said Tonya. “He wanted something we could be proud of and were so proud of him. We are so proud of him.”
Although Bob wasn’t much into birds, such as bird watching, Douglas and Cecile Mesker decided they want to have something special done in his honor and memory. According to the program handed out at the dedication ceremony, they wanted to do this for all his hard work and efforts in making sure Page Branch Park was created.
“Since Bob had dedicated so much time on the new park, Cecile suggested a certified bird sanctuary,” as stated in the program. “The Federated Garden Clubs of Missouri, Inc. sponsor bird sanctuaries along with the Missouri Conservation Commission for those interested in having a certified bird sanctuary for the preservation of birds and other wildlife.”
After hearing Bob’s story and all he did, even ill, the Troy Garden Club decided to sponsor the sanctuary. Although a few more meetings were needed to clear the area for the sanctuary, it was only a matter of time before David Davis, Tracy Hahn, Donnie Kinsler, Tim Golden and Elsberry Mayor Terry Martin cleared the area and had the project underway. Don Lovelace donated the mulch, The Jessie Black Club contributed funds for the shrubs, Martin along with his wife Marilyn donated bird feeders, houses and flowers; Paul Mesker helped hang the houses while the VFW Post 9064 gifted a bench engraved with Bob’s name. Kevin Hill with Davis Concrete provided the materials needed to build the pad for the bench. Finally, Dan Mesker constructed a sign used on the certification of the sanctuary and a picture of Bob working in the Bob Cat.
“He was always doing what he could for the community,” said Tonya. “He was even responsible for the [original part] of the trail. A friend of ours told me that whenever she walks the trail she has to stop and cry.”
According to Tonya, there were a lot of people that wanted the park, but there were also a large number of people that didn’t. However, Bob did. She went on to explain how he wanted there to be a safe place for kids to hang out; an outlet for them to have fun and still be safe.
“There was nothing for kids to do anymore,” said Tonya. “We had a bowling alley at one time, but that was gone so there was nowhere for them to go, which would lead to gravel road parties and that would lead to people getting seriously hurt.”
Tonya added that Bob was always in favor of Page Branch Park and that’s why he spent every moment he could working on it.
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