The day after 9/11, former Texas Gov. Ann Richards took up residence in New York City where she was the toast of the town, with a posse of admirers including Bette Midler and famed gossip columnist and native Texan Liz Smith. When Richards died in 2006, the two started working on a memorial garden in her honor.
The garden, formed under the auspices of Midler's New York Restoration Project, was dedicated last week in ceremonies hosted by the duo, along with native Texan Emily Conner and New York socialite Elizabeth Peabody.
Among the heavyweights who helped finance the initial stage of the Ann Richards Memorial Garden in Thomas Jefferson Park were Hillary and Bill Clinton, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner, Yoko Ono Lennon, and Holland Taylor. You might recall that Taylor wrote and starred in Ann on Broadway. Conner, who co-produced the play, has been instrumental in fundraising for the project from the beginning.
The dedication introduced phase one of the garden, located on the grounds of the Manhattan Center for Science & Mathematics. The 40 cherry blossom trees and numerous shrubs that were unveiled can be seen from FDR Drive. The plan includes the addition of 22 more trees and additional shrubs with completion of the project expected in 2016.
Those attending the dedication included Kate Hathaway, mother of Ann Hathaway and a co-producer of Ann; Ellen Levine, editorial director of Hearst Magazines; Dr. Richard Levine, who co-wrote Richards' book I'm Not Slowing Down; and significant donors Riki Kane and Bob Larimer, founders of the wine accessory company Metrokane.