Memories in stone

Lake Harriet has provided visitors a welcoming environment of music, activity, relaxation and good company for more than a century. Now, park users young and old are able to make their own memories permanent.

More than 160 individual pavers and benches, engraved with personal dedications, memorable dates and snippets of stories, began to be installed around the Lake Harriet Band Shell last year. Part of an ongoing fundraiser hosted by People for Parks, they are installed in batches about every six months. Roughly 300 were installed in the program’s debut a year ago. Another set was unveiled in May.

Generally, pavers are purchased in loving commemoration of the deceased, in honor of the living or in fond remembrance of special events and occasions. If you ask those who have purchased pavers, you will find that each is entirely unique in inscription and meaning.

For Bob Schedin, 82, who grew up in Minneapolis and graduated from Washburn High School, the paver was a gift — one that takes him on a trip through the past. As a young boy, Schedin spent nearly every day at Lake Harriet swimming, canoeing, listening to the concert band and eating the “best ice cream in Minneapolis.”  

Two of his most infamous memories are now a permanent part of Lake Harriet because of the paver program. The inscription reads: “Bob Schedin swam across this lake in 1944. We won’t even mention what happened with the car.”

“My brother and I, we used to go swimming so much,” he said. “It was like we were fish in the water. I just swam and swam and never got tired.” This is what led 16-year-old Schedin to attempt, and succeed, in swimming across the entire lake.

The second incident noted on the paver is a classic case of youngsters trying to cover their tracks after a mishap or two. The end result, however — a stolen car driven into the lake — was a little more than they had bargained for. “I was a bad boy when I was young,” Schedin recalled with a laugh.

Nearly seven decades later, Schedin still frequents Lake Harriet with his wife, children and grandchildren who find the same charm that he does at Lake Harriet — and who enjoy the ice cream just as much too. “There is so much nostalgia connected to [the paver],” he says. “They are memories I’ll never forget.”

Alison Silvis, 26, originally of Edina, received a paver at her wedding shower this past spring and will be forever reminded of her marriage proposal story when she sees it in the ground. The inscription reads: “Alison ♥ Arjun. 09-Aug-09.”

Silvis and husband Arjun Rustagi, who met in undergraduate school at Stanford University, began discussing marriage around the same time that they were planning a trip to India, where Rustagi’s parents are from. “One night we were having dinner and talking about it, and out of the blue I just blurted out: ‘Are you planning on proposing to me in front of the Taj Mahal?’”

The accuracy of her question was immediately evident. “He was shocked, and the look on his face totally betrayed him,” Silvis recalled. “I felt awful.”

Two months later, on a visit to Lake Harriet, the couple had lunch with Silvis’ relatives and they were given a family heirloom ring. Following the meal, Rustagi led Silvis on a walk around the lake to a secluded bench where he got on one knee and recited a marriage proposal.

“It was only Arjun’s second time being there, but I’ve been going there since I was a little girl,” Silvis said. “For me, it had a lot of significance and he knew that.”

Although it is not the Taj Mahal, the Lake Harriet band shell provided a wealth of happiness for the couple as they celebrated with a wedding picnic there this past August. They received the paver as a gift from family friends.

“It symbolizes community closeness and recognizing the places that bring us together,” Silvis said. “I love the idea that [the gift] is going to support the park.”

About 25 years ago, Robin McCormick, a long-time resident of Minneapolis, had an infant and a daycare on her hands, and found herself in need of some “me” time. “I wanted to get out and get moving, and I asked some of the parents at the daycare if they wanted to join me,” McCormick said.

At that point, a group of four parents began running around Lake Harriet three times a week at 5:45 a.m. Since then, McCormick’s idea has grown into a running and walking group that has been together for nearly two-and-a half decades: Team Caffeine.

“The only thing we like to do together more than exercise is go to coffee,” McCormick explained. “Some people go two or three times a week after we’re done.”

The nickname was set in stone on the group’s new paver, reading: “Running and walking. Laughing and talking. Team Caffeine. Est. 1997.” The date reflects the year that the group, under their name, began running together on a regular basis.

In the beginning, McCormick found that the early-morning exercise allowed her to talk with parents about their children at the daycare. The children, now grown adults themselves, are still a topic of conversation within the group as well as other important issues that only good friends can discuss.