Volunteer Fills Planters in Comstock Park
If you’ve ever admired the flowers in the planters at the parking lot by Dwight Lydell Park in downtown Comstock Park, you have Darla Rector to thank.
Five years ago, Rector noticed the planters were empty. When she worked at Swan Inn Restaurant on Alpine Ave. in Comstock Park, she had talked to business owners and Rotary members who came in about how nice it would be if there were flower planters in the downtown area. The responses were, “Who will take care of them?" and “How will they be watered?”
Two years later, the planters at the parking lot still sat empty and Rector decided to make them her project. She had put her husband Glen in a nursing home the previous December and she knew planting the flowers would lift her spirts.
That spring she bought flowers at Countryside Floral in Allendale, filled six one-gallon milk jugs with water and drove to the parking lot. She remembers that while she was planting the flowers, “a young man drove up in a truck…said he was supposed to pick up the planters, but he wasn’t sure when.” It turned out a couple had been taking care of the planters, but they had retired. Rector said the young man seemed to know the couple. They talked for a while about how they wished the plastic flowers in the hanging pots on the lampposts along West River Drive were real. To this day Rector doesn’t know who the young man was or who was going to have him take out the planters.
Rector had hoped to do the planting anonymously, but as she continued filling the pots that day, she had more company. She said, “A woman stopped by and said she was a Fink,” the family that built Nick Fink’s Bar in 1888 and owned it for four generations. The woman said she wanted to give Rector some money for planting the flowers, but Rector declined.
Rector thinks the flowers in the planters are looking particularly attractive this year. She even added some varieties she’s not familiar with. She still fills the milk jugs and drives to the parking lot to keep the flowers watered. During hot, dry spells they need to be watered every day and she said, “It’s quite a commitment.” She said she had a lot of flowers at the house she and her husband had lived in, but doesn’t have them at their condo because it’s now difficult for her to take care of them..
Rector grew up in Wyoming, graduating from Godwin Heights High School. She married, started a family, and divorced. She married Glen Rector in 1977 and moved to Comstock Park where he lived. Between them they have five children, twelve grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. She worked for twenty years as a cook and baker at Swan Inn before retiring in 2003.
Glen Rector has deep roots in Comstock Park. His grandfather Clayton Rector was a security guard at the Michigan State Fair located in Comstock Park in the early 1900s. His aunt, Fern Rector, taught at the old high school building in the 1940s and 50s and lived in one of the “tannery row” houses built on Leland St. for workers at the tanneries in Dwight Lydell Park in the late 1800s and early 1900s.