George Schmeider loved Oakland Beach and devoted his life to kids. When he died in December, it didn’t take his friends and family long to come up with a memorial that celebrated those passions.
“George was all about Oakland Beach and the kids of Oakland Beach,” said Gary Costantino, a close friend. “I started working on it the day after he passed away. Instead of sitting home and crying, this was my way of dealing with George’s death.”
Five months later, the memorial is becoming a reality.
Ground was broken on Saturday for George E. Schmeider Memorial Park. What was once a run-down basketball court and playground behind the Jonah Community Center will soon be a state-of-the art court, playground and memorial.
It is expected to be completed in June.
“Not only is it a memorial for George, but it’s something for the community,” Costantino said. “This park was run down. We’ve got the restaurants, the beach, the softball field is very nice. Why not the basketball court and the playground? The youth in the community deserve something nice.”
Schmeider often talked about renovating the basketball court, but it didn’t seem feasible. Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group of family and friends – and countless donations of money, time and materials – it’s happening.
“George and I would swing down by the sea wall all the time, and we always talked about redoing the basketball court whenever we saw it,” Costantino said. “It was always just, ‘That’s a great idea, but do you know how much that would cost?’ We decided, you know what, let’s make his dream a reality.”
The community was on board.
Gary J. Perry Paving stepped up as the driving force and is doing the bulk of the project, all free of charge. Cardi Corporation donated materials and Rainone Landscaping will landscape the whole park. Several other companies chipped in any way they could, and the Warwick chapter of the National Softball Association staged a tournament in April that raised more than $5,000. All together, the project is estimated at $200,000 when labor and materials are factored in.
The project began early Saturday morning and by 10 a.m., the old basketball court was a pile of rubble. Members of the community watched the construction all day Saturday while friends and family of Schmeider served up food from the grill.
It was a festive atmosphere – and the beginning of something special.
“We wanted to make the community feel like it’s theirs, get them involved in the construction,” Costantino said. “It’s great to be a part of.”
The ribbon-cutting is tentatively scheduled for June 22. Anyone wishing to make a donation can visit georgeschmeider.com.