On Feb. 10, 1905, Francis Eyre Parker, the eldest son of Thomas F. B. Parker, was laid to rest just two days after Thomas passed away.
Francis Parker, a lawyer from New York who lived in the New Brunswick area, had suffered two years from an illness that required constant care. He was fortunate enough to be able to afford round-the-clock care while being confined to his bed, according to Kearney Y. Kuhlthau. It was during that time that Parker sought a place for others who were suffering from surgeries, disabilities and incurable diseases, since he realized others couldn’t necessarily rest without being a burden to their families, he said.
Almost two years after his passing, his wife Henrietta Macauley Parker donated a portion of the land surrounding her family’s home of Rose Bank to build the Francis E. Parker Memorial Home, a place where “incurables” could receive 24-hour nursing care at a reasonable cost. The property at the corners of Easton Avenue and Landing Lane in New Brunswick is adjacent to Buccleuch Park.
After Francis Parker’s internment more than 100 years ago, a monument was placed at the Macauley plot in Elmwood Cemetery in North Brunswick.
The Roman-style stoa with her right hand outstretched has her finger pointing to heaven. In her left hand is a mariner’s cross, a symbol of hope. At her feet is an inscription of “Friend after friend departs” by James Montgomery. On the base of the statue, in lead on marble, are the names and dates of fellow departed family members.
On Sept. 21, the memorial was rededicated, as extensive efforts went into refurbishing the monument, which had fallen into disrepair over time.
“Thanks to you all, we restored a treasure,” said Eleanor Molloy, president of Elmwood Cemetery. “This magnificent statue is a message from our past.
“The visual character of Elmwood’s landscape is paramount to our mission … so for years it had been a dream of mine to preserve this beautiful work of art. … She is a beautiful reminder of hope and promise,” she said.
Joined by 18 members of the extended Parker family, Clifford Van Voorhees spoke of the task to connect and reconnect with his cousins in the project to restore their great grandparents’ burial site.
Francis and Henrietta had three daughters; Van Voorhees’ grandparents were Adelaide and Clifford. He said about three years ago, his cousin Patricia Schultz became distressed about the condition of the monument, so he corralled his cousins to support the mission morally and financially.
Since 2016, the female statue has been covered in lichens, her thumb and forefinger were broken, and some of the lettering was missing. Surrounded by a large eastern white pine, she was covered in pine and needles.
Marco Federico, senior conservator from Materials Conservation in Philadelphia, said the fine grained statuary marble was probably imported at the time, and thus required careful hand skills to carve in great detail.
He said the conservators had to erect scaffolding to clean the lichens, and upon noticing her broken hand, meticulously filled the cracks and installed a small stainless pin to resculpt the fingers. They made a template on site to trace the existing letters, and brought it to their studio in Philadelphia to hand cut the letters.
He said their mission was “to show honesty” in the restoration and “to respect the original fabric.”
“We tell the story of change over time,” Federico said. “We can be certain the monument will stand well into the future, a testament to the legacy of the Parker family.”
“It doesn’t change it, but it brings it back to really what it’s meant to be,” Van Voorhees said.
Schultz acknowledged the “quiet power of the dynasty” and said, “This has been such a wonderful opportunity to remember those who have gone before us.”
The Francis E. Parker Memorial Home group now includes Evergreen Way Memory Care Neighborhood in Piscataway, Parker at Stonegate assisted living residence in Highland Park, Parker at River Road nursing care residence in Piscataway, Parker at Monroe nursing care residence in Monroe, Parker at Landing Lane nursing care residence in New Brunswick, and Parker at Somerset post-acute rehabilitation and nursing care residence in Somerset.
“We strive every day to follow in the footsteps of these remarkable trailblazers,” said Roberto Muñiz, president and CEO of Parker Health Group.
Serving around 1,000 people a day through all its facilities and services, Parker Life finds ways to make aging manageable and relatable, Muñiz said.
He said Parker at Stonegate received the gold award for quality, only one of three longterm care facilities in the United States to do so.
“We make aging a part of life,” Muñiz said. “Every day we help those we care for, as well as our staff, enjoy life,” he said.
“I know my great grandparents would be incredibly proud … of preserving and expanding their missions,” Van Voorhees said.
After Margaret Fourijian, director of Marketing for Parker Life, unveiled a bench in honor of the rededication, Muñiz said, “I hope this serves as a place of rest and relaxation for all who visit the site.”
For more information, visit parkerlife.org or theelmwoodcemetery.org.
Contact Jennifer Amato at email@example.com.