Spotlight on Thomas O’Connor

Each month we spotlight a volunteer, staff member, docent, donor, or sponsor of the Virginia Robinson Gardens (VRG) -- those that have made an impact on the organization. We want to let you know about these wonderful people and corporations that give so much to the Virginia Robinson Gardens and to the community, and what they do that is so impactful.

This month, we spotlight Tom O’Connor, a wonderful and dedicated docent who has volunteered at Garden Tour, the Semi-Virtual Children’s Science Program, and the Friends’ Rose Sales, among his many other contributions to VRG, in particular to the Archive Project. According to Archive Chair Patty Elias, Tom’s contribution to the archive has been invaluable. Working weekly for over a year, Tom assisted in the sorting and organizing of over 8,000 documents and 1,000 photos found in the basement of the estate. His recall of local and world history was most helpful in identifying many of the clues found in the undated photographs, helping to provide a clear indication of their era.

We asked him these four questions:

1. How did you first learn about VRG, and what inspired you to become a docent?

I was in an exercise class with Julia Klein at Beverly Hills High School several years ago. Julia was President of the Friends of Robinson Gardens at the time, and one morning, she thrust a piece of paper into my hand and said: "Tom, you HAVE to do this!" The paper was a flyer with information on signing up for Children's Tour training at VRG. I was not about to say "No" to Julia; so I signed up, attended the training, and I've been very happy I did so.

2. What is your role - how do you contribute to VRG?

Since Children's Tours were suspended for the last two years, I've been leading regular public tours. I've also worked over the past year with Patty Elias and Joan Selwyn on the Archive Project. I'm looking forward to leading Children's Tours again in September.

3. Can you share a favorite VRG memory with us?

The questions I get from students on the Children's Tour are always interesting, and I enjoy the answers they give to my questions. One of my favorites was an answer to my question, "What's an example of a fruit with one large seed?" An eager student responded "Guacamole!" While that answer may not be precisely correct, that student was paying attention and was definitely on the right track.

4. Please add any additional information you would like to share!

The Archive Project provided important verification to assure that docents are giving correct information on our tours. There had been some uncertainty whether the year of Virginia's birth was 1877 or 1878. A certified copy of her Missouri birth certificate and two passports were found when we were sorting documents. Her birth year is 1878; however, on her tombstone, the date of birth shown is 1877. At this time, we have not confirmed the correct date. So, Virginia was just shy of her 99th or 100th birthday when she died in 1977.

2 Responses

  1. Clare Wagner
    | Reply

    Tom – You are such a terrific asset to Robinson Gardens. Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication.

  2. Julia Klein
    | Reply

    Oh my, Tom! You just put a smile on my face.I’m glad you are still thriving at VRG. What a wonderful gift Robinson Gardens has been for so many of us who have volunteered and experienced its beauty and magic!

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