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Rosemary and time in Needham

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By Stephen Press
Hometown Weekly Staff

When Rosemary Lake closed in 1969 due to issues with water quality, Needham Park and Recreation determined that a temporary pool was the answer. And so it was that Rosemary Pool was born in 1972.

Almost half a century later, the "temporary" Rosemary Pool has finally reached the end of its line, slated for closure and reconstruction for the entirety of 2017. It is a major moment for Needham Park and Rec, as the new Rosemary complex will greatly expand the department's ability to serve the town's recreational needs.

For those who frequented the pool, it is also the end of an unforgettable era. If there's anybody who understands, it's Patty Carey, Needham's Director of Park and Recreation.

"My family moved to Needham in 1968, so I swam in the lake for two summers until it closed at the end of 1969," she says. "I was in line the first day the pool opened in July 1972 and went just about every day that summer with friends and family, as well as the next summer." For Carey, it was the beginning of a relationship with Rosemary Pool that would last into the present day. After beginning to volunteer for Park and Recreation programs in 1974, she became Assistant Director in 1986 and stepped into her current role in 1995.

"So many pools are holes in the ground, surrounded by concrete with an asphalt parking lot – could be anywhere," says Carey. "Rosemary may be quirky, but it is surrounded by nature … I’ve been to places that artificially try to incorporate many of these features into their pool sites, but here it is done naturally."

Of course, it's not just the physical structure and setting that have made Rosemary so unique. The ever-evolving cast of Needhamites that have frequented the pool over the years have turned it from merely memorable to utterly special.

"Watching staff grow, returning for several summers, and becoming adults is a great experience for me," she continues. "So many come back with their families, and so many say: 'This was the best job I ever had!' The quality of the staff has made a rectangular pool a special place."

"Looking back," affirms Stephanie Doherty, former staff member and supervisor, "working at Rosemary Pool was one of the best jobs I could have had. You learned to work with and manage peers, interact with children, and learn people skills from interacting with adults."

"Rosemary Pool becomes a place away from home where you can mingle with friends, relax, and exercise. While working there, I saw children overcome fears, families unite, and strangers become friends," remarks Doherty. "One of the reasons I look so fondly on my summers at Rosemary Pool is that we created a team environment to make the pool a fun and safe place for kids, families and adults to go."

That fun, safe environment is still remembered fondly by those who marked milestones at the pool - and continue to do so.

"My earliest memory of Rosemary would be doing Ring around the Rosie in the parent-toddler swim class, probably when I was about three years old," says Melissa Vieira, who herself did a stint as a supervisor at the pool. "I think the greatest aspect of Rosemary is the shallow water for kids - like a beach. Even though we have a pool at home, the kids loved going to Rosemary when they were little because they could move around so easily on their own!"

"My most endearing memory was probably four years ago, when my son was finally old enough to take swimming lessons at Rosemary," she continues. "Seeing him 'be an alligator' was such a great moment!"

"Children play in the sand (later enjoying massive games of beach volleyball as they get older)," Carey wistfully reflects. "[They] watch the fish jumping in the lake, watch the birds flying overhead…"

With the passage of time will come a new Rosemary complex - one that will forge its own beautiful memories in Needham's collective consciousness. It is, to say the least, an amazing hour for Park and Recreation.

"I am so excited to finally have a space that Park and Recreation can schedule and add new programs for all ages," says Carey with brimming enthusiasm. "Having our office located in the middle of the action will be wonderful – a vibrant community asset. The Park and Recreation Commission and the Park and Recreation staff are so appreciative of all the people who have loved Rosemary Pool for so many years, and who have shared their ideas for a new community facility," she continues.

Still, for those who have been coming to this Needham community institution for 45 years, it is a little bittersweet. The summer of 2016 marks an end to the "temporary" structure that is Rosemary Pool.

The memories, it seems, are indelible.

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