Every neighborhood has its personality and sense of place, but like all great loves, this one is unique, special and unforgettable. We can point to specific highlights — White Rock Lake, the Arboretum, schools and restaurants — as these letters do. As we face the coronavirus together, it’s a comfort to hear from our community. To live in our neighborhood is to love our neighborhood.

Dear Lakewood,

I was blessed to have a wonderful childhood growing up in East Dallas with my parents, two sisters and brother. Our family loved our neighborhood, the many celebrations for school, ball game victories, backyard cookouts and all holidays. We hosted the neighborhood haunted house for Halloween, were Fourth of July participants and seasonally decorated our front door before it became popular. As my dad tended his magnificent roses with classical music playing in the background, people would walk by and want to visit. As a family, we were involved in almost every activity available — scout troops, PTAs, school activities and the Y. It was such a friendly, loving environment where we all knew each other. It has, remarkably, remained the same.

I also love the natural beauty of East Dallas and feel fortunate to live with White Rock Lake as my office’s “backyard.” I love seeing people walk, run, ride bikes, sail and just be outside in nature as seen from the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden — my “second home” for nearly 20 years.

Photo by Danny Fulgencio

I also get to see people enjoy the Arboretum, the city’s 66-acre botanic garden. Beautifully designed and rich in programming, the garden attracts more than a million visitors from around the world, as well as those in our own neighborhood who come to walk our paths or take photos, including many quinceañeras, brides and families. There are few gardens in America that have such a setting with so much to enjoy. We have used the phrase “Let nature nurture you” for years, and I am so glad to see it realized every day.

What I also love about East Dallas is the generosity of its people — opening their homes, giving to the organizations they love and giving their time to the community. Our garden has flourished because of our amazing volunteers. Last year, we had 4,384 volunteers contribute more than 105,000
hours.

Lastly, those of us who work in the garden and those who visit know how lucky our city, especially East Dallas, is to have the Arboretum as their own. We continue to applaud the city leaders who, over 30 years ago, made this possible and have supported its mission ever since. What a wonderful place to live and work.

MARY BRINEGAR

Dallas Arboretum president and CEO

Dear Lakewood,

When I walk the gravel pathway to the Celebration Tree Grove to visit my son, it’s like walking into a sacred place — a place of peace, quiet and remembrance.

You see, this is the only place on earth acknowledging now and forever that my son Ian existed.

My memories of him will die with me, as they will with his mother, family and friends. But that bronze plaque from 2005 will remain long after.

After he died on Dec. 16, 2002, an artist friend of his painted some farewells to him on a picnic table at the north end of the lake. What weather didn’t erase, work crews did. Now the farewells are gone, but the plaque in the grove remains.

It’s fitting that this remembrance be at White Rock Lake. Ian went there often to escape the pressures of being a teenager. I’m sure he went to the lake for other reasons. It was a big part of his teenage years.

So when For the Love of the Lake announced the creation of the Celebration Tree Grove, my wife and I jumped at the chance to have a remembrance plaque cast for Ian. It was among the first added to the stonework, modeled after Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps structures from the 1930s. We contribute to it annually.

I often parked at the north end of the lake and walked to the grove. It was a bittersweet walk because, for years after his death, I kept searching for him, almost like I couldn’t believe he was dead. When I left the grove, I would kiss my fingertips and press them against Ian’s plaque and tell him, “I love you.” It was, and still is, my little ritual.

GORDON HUNTER

For the Love of the Lake volunteer

Dear East Dallas,

As a resident of East Dallas for more than 30 years, I can tell you there are so many things to love about our community. We have White Rock Lake, the Arboretum and the State Fair of Texas. We have diversity, great restaurants and people who rally together to protect the community. We are fiercely proud and independent.

But you know I was not going to pass up the opportunity to talk about our public schools. Dallas ISD is the most improved district in the state by almost any metric.

Now here we are in the COVID-19 crisis, and I couldn’t be prouder of how our teachers, principals, staff, students and their families are rising to the challenge. It’s not easy to be an educator under any set of circumstances, but it’s harder in a district where the vast majority of children are growing up in poverty and where food insecurity is a concern for so many families. It’s even harder still now with COVID-19.

I drove to five of our East Dallas schools. I saw principals, teachers and staff practicing social distancing in distributing much- needed food to our students. I also received many reports on the efforts to continue school through remote learning at home and to ensure Wifi access for our students, including generous donations from individuals and businesses.

When you ask what I love most about East Dallas, it’s the teachers, principals, staff, and the entire East Dallas community who rally around our students and change lives every day. We come together every day to help grow our future teachers, first responders, nurses, doctors, lawyers, plumbers, tradesmen, scientists, and other leaders.

I want to say this to all involved in our public schools during the current crisis: Thank you for the compassion you’ve shown to others. We in East Dallas take care of each other.

DAN MICCHICE

District 3 Dallas ISD Board of Trustees member

Dear Lakewood,

Four years ago, I packed up my two cats, left East Dallas in my Prius with the kayak rack on top and moved to NorthDallas. Yes, I know. That was a silly, abnegating and irrational mistake. Darlings, let me tell you, not only did I not find my place in North Dallas, I missed living in East Dallas every single day.

What was it that I missed, though? Was it the trees? My North Dallas neighborhood had lovely mature trees. Was it the nature? The North Dallas community had tons of nature, even forcing us to be extra vigilant with chicken security. What was it?

As I searched my mind for the answer, I kept going back to a Facebook group I’m part of. It’s called Women of Lakewood. I found myself perusing that group, looking for help to identify what I had missed. As I commented here, liked there, maybe even wondered what she did to her hair over that way, it occurred to me that I kept coming back for inspiration because the women in that group are the inspiration.

The women in that group are the reason I missed my beloved neighborhood.

You might be wondering, “What’s so great about a Facebook group full of local women?” I have watched as the women in that group have come together to help each other in times of need, grief and celebration. I have watched as the women have come together to help furnish apartments for refugees. I have watched as the women have come together behind a cause, letting the world know that they are here, they are fighting for what they believe in and they will make the world a better place.

One woman made it her goal to help a family who had experienced horrifying tragedy and loss due to gun violence. Ms. Powerhouse went to work on the problems this family faced, and she did it with a large group of women ready to help. There are a thousand smaller kindnesses that are just as profound.

I am getting ready to pick up two cloth masks from a lovely group member who made them and wants to give them away to the ladies in the group. She refuses to accept payment for them, and I suspect she set two aside for me because I whined about finding out that I am considered an essential worker.

Do you know who they are, these women I describe in heroic terms? They are beautiful, every single one. They are brilliant, every single one. They are present, every single one. They remind me that we are always stronger together.

LIESL MCQUILLAN 

Women of Lakewood administrator

Dear East Dallas,

It was more than 33 years ago that I was working in downtown Dallas, and we were living in Casa View. One day, my wife came downtown to meet me for lunch. I was used to taking the No. 60 bus from our house to downtown for work, and that was how she came to meet me. As soon as she got there, she told me, “We have to go look at this neighborhood

I saw out the bus window.” It seems that my morning bus was an express that stayed on Ferguson for much of the trip. Her later bus was a local route and went through neighborhoods I didn’t know existed. That’s how we found Hollywood Heights and have been here ever since.

It started as curb appeal but quickly expanded to pretty much all aspects of our lives. I am an architect and discovered many colleagues that I already knew

who lived in the neighborhood. My wife is a nurse, and she already worked at Doctors Hospital. She still does. We had two small girls, but we hadn’t even conceived of play groups and babysitting co-ops. Yet they were here, and we were immediately welcomed into them. We all know

about the schools, of course, but it’s more than those things. It’s the whole package. It’s a hometown-within-a-city with its restaurants and dive bars and churches and charities and shops and trees — everything.

Mostly, however, it’s the people. I have been involved with our neighborhood and our very successful neighborhood association for many years. I have been asked often, “What is the reason for our neighborhood’s success?” I have always responded that it’s because we have far more than our share of crazy people. They are crazy in the best ways: passionate, caring, energetic, kind, creative and relentless. Sometimes I will say or do something, and the revelation will hit me. I will turn to my wife and say,

“Geez! Did you hear/see that? That is so East Dallas.” And that makes me happy.

NORMAN ALSTON

Norman Alston Architects

Dear East Dallas,

The Bath House Cultural Center has been a gathering spot for East Dallas residents since 1930, first as an operating bathhouse, and then in the ’80s as Dallas’ first cultural center. Fun gatherings, beauty and entertainment have always been a top priority here. Nothing says East Dallas more than enjoying the sunset from the veranda or watching the lake wildlife and Dallas skyline emerge. All of this for free! Not to mention the opportunity to view beautiful art by local artists or take in a theater production.

What we love about East Dallas has many layers. First, we love the beauty — as you can experience from the Bath House and White Rock Lake — but also throughout the neighborhoods. We love the generosity of spirit. It is truly a community that comes together over and over again. Selfishly, we love how East Dallas continues to support the Bath House. From its support in favor of the much-needed bond monies to the residents who are members of the Friends of the Bath House Cultural Center and the thousands of people who pass through the Bath House each year, we appreciate you East Dallas.

TERESA BOND

Treasurer of Friends of the Bath House Cultural Center

Dear East Dallas,

As I sit to write this love letter to the neighborhood, I might not be in my best headspace.

These are trying times. Today alone, I nearly found my barefoot, disheveled, T-shirt- and jeans-clad self brought to tears when I discovered that my kids — who had already consumed their lunches that I lovingly prepared for them — had also consumed the two corn dogs that I fixed for myself. I had only been
on the phone for 10 darn minutes. It’s like all these people seem to do around here is eat.

What happened to me? What happened to us? Just mere weeks ago, as a local real estate broker and appointee to the Dallas Park and Recreation Board, I had a calendar full of meetings. I had an agenda. Heck, I had multiple agendas. Now, these unrecognizable days seem to languidly roll along. Days are now filled with little emotional landmines disguised as corn dogs.

As I pondered what I love about East Dallas, I decided that what I love the most is what I feel I’ve lost right now: connection.

I knew East Dallasites were a connected people, but I had no real appreciation for that until assuming my role on the park board. There’s an ancient Hebrew word “kesher” that describes the concept of connection and linkage, like a knot. Want to see your neighbors keshered? Throw yourself into projects with them involving our parks. That’s where you’ll see passions come alive and the best of the best- knotted and tangled-up connectedness that East Dallas has to offer.

Why is that? It’s because places like our parks and trails are veritable sanctuaries for the soul. When a space is a sanctuary, it is prized, and it is cherished. The definition of what it should or shouldn’t be is fought about from all sides with the loudest of voices. Perhaps this is because what speaks to one soul does not necessarily speak to another. Perhaps, when we all come out of this thing on the other side, we’ll remember this truth more clearly.

I miss all of that right now. None of it is the same in a virtual world. I miss shaking hands with the Talented and Gifted students working on their spring soil hydration project at Tietze Park. I miss sitting around a dining room table at the home of a Junius Heights neighbor, hashing out park beautification plans. I miss participating in events like “It’s My Park Day” with longtime groups, such as Friends of Exall Park, or walking the grounds at our former Randall Park with fledgling groups like Friends of Willis Winters Park. I miss playing at Lindsley Park after sweltering on a Hollywood Heights curb with my knobby-kneed kids lined up only elbows apart from 30 other knobby-kneed kids, all ready to snag candy from a bunch of middle-aged Easter bunnies parading by. I want to chat with a PID member about art and lights and placement of benches on a walk up the University Crossing Trail from Glencoe Park. I want to take my son to a meet-up with his buddiest Flagpole Hill and watch them run around like goofballs playing Capture the Flag. As the sun begins to fade, releasing its fairy dust to dance on the sheen of White Rock Lake, I want to invite another little girl nearby to trade bouquets of dandelions with my daughter.

This is what I love about East Dallas. This is what I miss. This is what I’m waiting for. This is what we’ll eventually get back. I saw a Facebook post in late March where some East Dallas girls created a message for neighbors as they were social distancing at Tietze Park. The message read, “Fear stops here.” The Facebook post continued by saying, “We’ve got this, one day and 6-feet apart at a time.” You know why we can confidently say that here in our corner of the world? It’s because no matter the physical distance between us, we are still connected by our East Dallas hearts. We might be in the fray right now, but I see a horizon where we will all be knotted right back together. I can’t wait. There are no other people in Dallas I would rather kesher with.

Maybe we’ll meet again soon in a park filled with kids and dogs and blissful chaos — all within only inches of one another. Maybe there will be checkered blankets, and we’ll sit on them, and we’ll laugh and tell stories and watch the evening set in — all while eating corn dogs.

AMANDA SCHULZ

District 14 Dallas Park and Recreation Board member

Dear Lakewood,

There are many reasons people love you. Many love you for the towering trees, the country club, the lake, bike trails or the gorgeous historic homes with sprawling lawns. You are convenient to downtown Dallas and have everything anyone would ever want in a neighborhood.

I love you for the community — the cool parents and awesome kids. I’ve gotten to know these parents and kids by coaching for local schools and churches. I’ve watched these kids go to college and come back home. This community has become my family, friends, business partners and bowling buddies. Lakewood feels like a small town where you see your friends at the store, the lake, church, school, the bowling alley or the 6 Ticket Beer Barn at the State Fair of Texas.

My wife, Jennifer, and I moved to Lakewood almost 20 years ago when our son was 1. Whole Foods was a Minyard’s, Mi Cocina was Matt’s, Hollywood Feed was an El Chico, CVS was Ace Hardware and the Lakewood Theater was still a theater. My children attended St. Thomas Aquinas. My son is now a sophomore at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and my daughter is at Bishop Lynch High School.

My family and I built Bowlski’s in the historic Lakewood movie theater. We wanted to create an entertainment venue for our community where friends could meet, bring their families and make new friends. We have bowling leagues and offer live music in addition to other fun community activities.

Please support our community, friends, families and local businesses during this very difficult time. SaveNeighborhoodRestaurants.com is a new website created by volunteers, including Bowlski’s, to help neighborhood restaurants and their staff. We’ll get through this together.

CRAIG SPIVEY

Bowlski’s Lakewood Theater owner


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