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Giving Back to What She Loved

Giving back to what she loved

Friday, March 31, 2006

Pauline E. Wessels
By Steve Eighinger

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Maggie Schuering Strong grew up sitting on the Quincy back porch of the late Pauline Wessels.

"Pauline was passionate about many things during her long life, but it could be argued that her greatest passion was nature," Strong said.

A close friend of Wessels for 20 years, Strong is now spearheading a drive that will lead to an ongoing donation in Wessels' memory to the Quincy Parks Foundation to assist in the development of Bob Mays Park at 18th and Koch's Lane.

The philanthropic Wessels was devoted to conservation of the environment, human rights and encouragement of the arts, according to her niece, Joy Hare of Baltimore, Md. Hare also serves as executor of Wessels' estate.

Donations from Wessels' family and local fundraising efforts will eventually lead to about $10,000 being earmarked for a memorial in her name at Bob Mays Park. Her estate will also donate between $100,000 and $200,000 each to five national non-profit organizations that help safeguard the environment.

Wessels was 91 when she died May 14, 2005. A 1932 graduate of Quincy High School, she came from a poor background and went on to become a successful real estate broker. Her husband, William, died in 1972.

"One of the refreshing things about Aunt Polly was that she had no ego," Hare said. "She was articulate, proper, and in later years held informal (gatherings) on her back porch with young and old neighbors and friends. Politics and the changing world were her favorite topics."

Strong, Hare and a group of about 25 former neighbors and friends have teamed with other family members of Wessels to help create the Pauline Wessels Memorial Alle, a tree-lined walking path which will be one of the integral features of Bob Mays Park.

The Alle is designed to consist of a minimum of 20 trees (10 on each side of the path). The placement of the Alle and types of trees will be chosen by a committee in conjunction with the Quincy Parks Foundation and Quincy Park District.

Future plans for the Alle include the addition of a minimum of two trees per year and sitting benches, also chosen by the committee in conjunction with the Park district. A memorial plaque also will be placed in the area to honor Wessels.

"When she died, we decided we wanted to do something to keep her memory alive," Strong said. "We felt compelled to do this. She was such an amazing person."

Strong said a fundraiser will be held each year on Wessels' Feb. 1 birthday to help keep the memorial project alive and thriving.

"To say that her death at age 91 was unexpected sounds like an oxymoron," Hare said. "She looked 70, in perfect health and was vitally interested in what other people were doing. She read voraciously and listened to talk radio.

"Mixing pointed humor with incisive thought, she enjoyed community activism and enthusiastically supported local and national organizations. The morning she died of a heart attack, she was dressing for a lecture by an Eleanor Roosevelt biographer at the Quincy Women's City Club.

"Aunt Polly always talked about helping to make the world a better place. Her life was dedicated to that."

Contact Staff Writer Steve Eighinger at or (217) 221-3377

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