Politicians, family members, loved ones and neighbors all gathered at the newly completed Thomas C. Wales Park on Queen Anne Saturday morning to dedicate the opening of the green space to the memory of the slain assistant U.S. Attorney.
People gathered under cloudy skies to hear Pasquale, a man with an electric violin playing along to taped accompaniment. The chorus from John Hay Elementary school stood on top of a flat-planed log in front of a pond filled with trees and vegetation and offered songs to the new season and to environmental awareness.
As the children sang, the family and crowd of well-wishers gathered at the front of the park, located at the intersection of Dexter Ave. N and 6th Ave. N. The 1.3 acres of park land is designed to be an urban wildlife habitat on the edge of downtown Seattle. A variety of indigenous, bird friendly plants were chosen to support artist Adam Kuby’s vision of creating avian habitat in the gabion-ring sculptures.
A series of elevated, stone-filled rings echo the history of the site as a gravel quarry, and gesture to its future as a wildlife sanctuary. Surrounding the rings are walking paths that circle the intimate space.
In December 2007, the park, formerly Dexter Pit Park, was re-named Thomas C. Wales Park to honor the man who had done so much for the Queen Anne community and the city of Seattle.
Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36th District) served as the event’s master of ceremonies, praising the park as a “symbolic representation itself” of community. But he also reminded the crowd of the man for whom the park was named - the man who could not be in the crowd that day to accept the honors.
Thomas Crane Wales, Assistant U.S. Attorney, was shot and killed in his Queen Anne Hill home in October 2001. The crime has never been solved and police say they have no new information to report on their investigation, which is now a decade-old. The people who assembled at the new park, declared Carlyle, were there “Not to mourn a life, but to feel the beauty of life.” He praised Wales’ work, and dedication to the people of Washington state.
Wales was born in Boston and graduated from the prestigious Milton Academy, where he once roomed with Joseph Patrick Kennedy II, son of senator Robert Kennedy. He graduated from Harvard University, and earned a law degree from Hofstra Law School in New York State.
Wales, said Carlyle, combined the “dignity and grace of Seattle” with “East Coast force conviction.” In Seattle, Wales investigated fraud in banking and business. He also served as a trustee for the local Federal Bar Association. The attorney’s daughter, Amy Wales, spoke briefly at the park dedication. She thanked the assembled crowd for honoring her father, saying she felt “deeply humbled” and “a pitter-patter in my heart.”
Thomas Wales became involved in gun control issues after a student brought a gun to his son’s school and used it to wound two people. He became involved with Washington CeaseFire and supported a 1997 referendum that would have required trigger locks on firearms. The referendum was defeated.
John Hopper, a director of the Thomas C. Wales Foundation established in the attorney’s memory, encouraged all citizens to work for a better community. “We are the ones we have been waiting for, he” he concluded.
Tim Burgess of the Seattle City Council, remembered meeting Wales on a community council, and praised the attorney’s outspokenness: “You always knew where you stood with Tom.”
Another City Council member, Tom Rasmussen remembered the 30-year struggle to convert the former gravel pit into a park. He attributed the final result to the “passionate citizenship” and “energy” of the community.
The dedication gathering did not reach a formal end. A woman in a wheelchair, protesting the lack of park accessibility to the disabled, got a friendly welcome and earned praise, in the spirit of Thomas C. Wales’ advocacy.
The ceremony concluded with various elected officials and family members completing the flowerbed by putting in some final plants.