PORTER | Officials at Indiana Dunes Tourism gathered with family and friends on Friday morning to dedicate a newly-built memorial garden to two former members of their front desk staff who recently died.
The garden, located on the grounds of the Porter County Visitor Center, was dedicated to Marci Brady and Jim Mannel who both shared their passion and love for Porter County and the outdoors through working with the public at the center.
“If I could think of one word to describe Marci Brady, it would be spunk. She joked with us, laughed with us, and even though she was petite she hauled boxes around here and was a perfectionist about keeping the brochure racks full and neat,” said Lorelei Weimer, executive director.
A plaque on site said of Brady that “she loved and appreciated the outdoors.”
Mannel was also celebrated and Weimer noted that during a “mystery shopper” visit to the Visitor Center by a national tourism consulting firm a few years ago, they were so taken with Mannel’s hospitality and knowledge that they said he was unlike any other they had seen and should be an “ambassador for the state of Indiana.”
Choking back tears, Weimer said, “Jim was an educator and the Visitor Center was an extension of his classroom. He would spend the time and give the visitors answers to all of their questions.”
Operations Director Patti Boyer said, “Jim treated all visitors as if they were coming to his house. He used to walk inside the building for exercise all winter so the garden features a walking path and we hope visitors will love the garden as much as Jim and Marci would have.”
Mannel’s plaque reads, “He passionately shared his knowledge of Indiana Dunes Country.”
The garden was designed by Bonnie Lee of The Gardener in Chesterton, who ceremonially added a rock to the display during the commemoration.
“I added butterfly bushes for Jim because I know he loved butterflies, and we have a walking path and flowers that bloom during all times of the season. There are picnic tables and benches so people can just come, sit, and reflect since they’re traveling. They’re on a journey,” Lee said.
Widow Ruth Mannel said her husband “would have loved the path to walk. It’s very special. It’s beautiful.”