Memorial garden to honor family hit by two-generation tragedy

       More than 20 years ago, a flat, bronze sculpture of a little boy with a soccer ball was placed in a roughly 500-square-foot planter box just west of El Paso County Parks' Bear Creek tennis courts.

After Ed and Gwen Rudolph died in a 2009 car accident, plans formed for a memorial garden next to the Bear Creek Park tennis courts, incorporating this sculpture of their son Eddie Rudolph, who had died similarly in 1979.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The sculpture provides only one clue to its origin - the single word, “Eddie,” at its base. According to county information, the sculpture represents Eddie Rudolph, the son of prominent Colorado Springs residents Ed and Gwen Rudolph - a developer and former Olympic speedskater and a landscaper and interior designer, respectively. The couple had commissioned the Eddie sculpture in their son's memory. It shows him at age 5, in 1979, when he died in a car that was hit by a train.
       The sculpture took on new significance last July, when Ed and Gwen themselves were killed in a car accident.
       The county has since received a proposal from Urban Farmer, a Denver-area landscaping company that had worked closely with Gwen. Urban Farmer, “with support from the Rudolph estate, has proposed to install a memorial garden for the Rudolph family adjacent to the Bear Creek tennis courts,” reads the background information for the agenda item approved by the El Paso County commissioners July 29. “The existing sculpture will be incorporated into the proposed garden. The garden will feature a xeriscape design to minimize maintenance.”
       There will be no up-front cost to the county. The schedule calls for Urban Farmer to take care of the garden for the first year, then turn it over to the county, according to Tim Wolken, whose Community Development Department includes the Parks Division. He said that county staffers are now reviewing the garden plans, with the goal of Urban Farmer starting work at least by fall.
       Nicole Stone of Urban Farmer, contacted by phone in Denver, was a little more optimistic, saying she'd like to begin the ground work before September. Her plan is to finish before winter sets in.
       She said an early part of the job will be removing the “large, raggedy-looking junipers” in the planter box now. Also due to be cleaned up are the two adjacent, narrower boxes that terrace down to the pavement next to the courts; however, these aren't slated for Urban Farmer plantings, she said.
       The “Eddie” sculpture has become a bit weathered over the years, “but the family is going to be out there, and I know it will be addressed,” said Stone, who had worked with Gwen Rudolph on landscaping projects. As a part of incorporating the sculpture into the memorial garden, “the sculpture will be cleaned up and properly cared for,” Stone added.
       New amenities to be added are two benches and a crusher-fines foot path.
       The replacement vegetation will consist of “deer-resistant” plantings, including yarrow, salvia and grass, she said.
       Although little watering should be needed, the garden will have an irrigation system that's connected to the park's water supply, according to plans.
       In the end, the site will look much like the nearby, naturally vegetated hillside, Stone predicted. “It will be an area that feels like you're sitting in the mountains, but you can watch people playing tennis,” she said.

In a view from the opposite direction as the photo on Page 1, the reverse side of the "Eddie" sculpture can be seen, as well as the two narrower planter boxes terracing down from the main one on top.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Wolken said a memorial garden to the Rudolphs on county land is appropriate, not just because of the tragedies, but because they had supported county activities. “When I was approached, I thought it would be a nice tribute to the Rudolphs and a great feature for the park,” he said.

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