On February 24, 2017, another milestone was reached at the Wilmot Gardens, the dedication and official opening of the Chapman Healing Garden. Also, on this same date, the Richard C. Christensen Memorial located within the healing garden was dedicated before a large and enthusiastic audience of family and friends. Interestingly, these two events occurred 65 years after the Wilmot Memorial Garden was first created in 1952. Both the Chapman Healing Garden and the Christensen Memorial were made possible by a generous gift from the Jules B. Chapman, M.D. and Annie Lou Chapman Private Foundation. Those of us associated with the projects are deeply indebted to Dr. Robert T. Watson and the other members of the foundation board for their support.
The Chapman Healing Garden honoring Jules B. Chapman and Annie Lou Chapman was established in recognition of their dedication to the humanistic care of patients. The centerpiece of their activities at UF was the funding of the Jules B. Chapman M.D. Professorship in Clinical Care and Humaneness by Mrs. Chapman in 1995 to honor her late husband. The professorship was created to support the development of programs to teach medical students effective communication skills and sensitivity toward patients and their families. The first recipient of the chair was Dr. Robert T. Watson.
The Christensen Memorial honors the memory of Richard C. Christensen, M.D., M.A., a UF College of Medicine professor in the department of psychiatry’s division of community psychiatry and director of behavioral health services at the Sulzbacher Center, a center for the homeless in Jacksonville. He was a pioneer in the field of behavioral health for the homeless. Dr. Christensen was struck and killed by a car in Africa on Thanksgiving Day, 2015, while working on a Habitat for Humanity building project. He is survived by his wife, Kathy, and son, Chris, both of whom participated in the dedication of the memorial.
The new healing garden provides a serene and peaceful setting for the enjoyment of visitors. As depicted in the accompanying photographs, two mule palms provide a welcoming invitation to the main entrance on the south edge of the garden. A wrought iron bench, a gift from Dr. Suzanne S. Spanier in honor of Thomas H. Maren, Ph.D., founding chair of the department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and Emanuel Sutter, M.D., a former Dean of the College of Medicine, is located near the entrance. A lighted brick paver pathway along which extensive plantings of azaleas and camellias are present, leads visitors to the Christensen Memorial complete with a second wrought iron bench and a lovely water feature. The latter has a backdrop composed of boulders and a host of colorful plantings. A variety of aquatic plants including water lilies, spatterdock, hawthorn lilies, and duck potato add interest to this water feature. The walkway continues its descent toward picturesque circular, fieldstone walls that lead the visitor to a large patio area covered with colorful flagstone and a pool opposite of which is abundant seating. This pool is fed by water flowing from six nozzles located in the fieldstone wall. This pool also contains a variety of aquatic plants including horsetail, water lilies, hawthorn lilies and dwarf papyrus. Visitors can exit this very special area via a lower walkway and enjoy the presence of additional plantings that include azaleas, fragrant dwarf gardenias and several more camellias. The staff at Wilmot Gardens was largely responsible for both the landscape design and the planting of the Chapman Healing Garden and the Christensen Memorial.
We invite you to visit this unique garden that makes the use of sound, flowing water and fragrances to create an environment that is accessible and welcoming to all people in every stage of life.
C. Craig Tisher, M.D., Director, Wilmot Gardens