PORTAGE | When Iver Arvidson built the Gary Limits subdivision — now known as Harbor Oaks — he named its little neighborhood park Roberts Park for his only son, Robert.
Mysteriously, around 1960, the park in the middle of the subdivision off County Line Road between U.S. 20 and U.S. 12 was stripped of its name.
After more than 50 years of being referred to as Harbor Oaks Park, the green space was rededicated Saturday as Robert’s Park. Its namesake, a World War II Battle of the Bulge veteran, was there to witness the ceremony with his family.
Russell Bass, Robert Arvidson’s son-in-law, spearheaded the effort to have the park’s name returned by approaching Portage Mayor James Snyder.
“He was very cooperative,” Bass said. "He said,'‘I don’t see why we can’t make this happen.'"
Parks maintenance personnel, guided by Parks Department Superintendent Jenny Orsburn, spread fresh mulch, installed a wood fence and placed new picnic tables in the park surrounded by towering oaks and maple trees.
“It’s great to recognize one of the communities that make up the city of Portage,” Orsburn said. “This is a great day to honor the history of the city.”
Delores Arvidson, Robert’s wife, said her husband was nervous and excited at the rededication ceremony.
“He started crying this morning, and I cry when he cries,” Delores Arvidson said. “He’s just totally blessed.”
Orsburn, who admitted even she had tears in her eyes, said the department’s goal was to rededicate the space before Arvidson’s 87th birthday on Oct. 25.
“He’s such a sweetheart,” Orsburn said of Arvidson. “It’s a great opportunity to get out here and give the park some TLC. It really needed some love.”
For 60 years, the Arvidsons have lived in the house they built across the street from the park. They raised five children there.
Robert Arvidson credits his wife and his father for his longevity and his family’s good fortune.
“I wish he could come down (from heaven) and see what’s happening today,” Robert Arvidson said of his father. “It’s a real honor.”