Emory recalls 36-years of service

MILFORD — “A porta-potty floated down the river with an employee holding it, trying to hold it back after a nor’easter one year, and I’ll tell you who, too. It was Bobby Jacobs,” Gary Emory recalled as he looked back on 36 years of working with Milford’s Parks and Recreation department.emory

Now semi-retired as he calls it, Mr. Emory was the second director the department has seen it its 40-year history after beginning his parks and recreation career almost immediately after college. His work has earned him many recognitions including the George T. Sargisson Award from the Delaware Recreation and Parks Society and the DMI Volunteer of the Year Award from Downtown Milford, Inc.

He has seen programs come and go over the years as the community evolved, but said two things always remained the same.

“Those tee-ball kids always ran straight to third base, instead of first base, every year. And when the ball is finally hit off the tee, everyone in the field runs for it at once. It’s fun to watch the kids learn,” he joked.

The Parks and Recreation Department began just three years before he joined the city as Recreation Supervisor under the direction of Dave Coyle. He soon stepped into the director role himself leading programs such as Milford’s Haunted Forest and the Discover DelMarVa with Gary bus tours throughout the years.

During his tenure, the department grew to six full-time employees and one of the largest municipal parks in the State of Delaware.

“We have about 1/10th of a mile on Newark’s Riverfront,” he said proudly.

Milford’s Riverwalk is his greatest accomplishment as director, he said, completing 23 phases in only 15-20 years. Goat Island, the newest addition to the Riverwalk, was the first land purchased as a Greenway for the project, and the last to be developed, he said.

“That river was a dump,” he remembered. “Glen Davis, a hospital administrator then, took me for a walk and said, ‘How do you expect me to attract new doctors when this river is such a dump?’ Then the library square started coming together. Milford was just at the right place at the right time.”

Of all the amenities Milford now has to offer, the Riverwalk is what Mr. Emory said he is looking forward to enjoying the most during his retirement. He also plans to stay in the area to help his elderly parents.

Although he has stepped down from the director position he held for most of his career, he said he will continue volunteering in Milford and has set up a trust fund in his name to benefit the community when needs arise.
He is currently training former Assistant Director Brad Dennehy to be his successor until his full retirement begins on April 1.

“Change is good,” he said. “My decision was easier knowing I’m leaving the department to a confident staff.

They’re going to continue building on a successful foundation.”

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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