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IMHO: For Tabers, Cory’s Field a labor of love, loss

  • Charlie Taber, of Grantham, N.H., collects loose balls at Cory's Field, in Plainfield, N.H., on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. The recreational field and courts were created in memory of his son Cory, who died in a car-pedestrian accident in 1987. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • Becky Taber, of Grantham, N.H., with Stout searches for loose balls and trash at Cory's Field, in Plainfield, N.H., on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. The recreational field and courts were created in memory of her son Cory, who died in a car-pedestrian accident in 1987. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 8/17/2019 10:14:15 PM
Modified: 8/17/2019 10:14:12 PM

Over the sound of scraping paint, Charlie Taber heard the words that have made his three-decade labor of love and loss worth the effort.

Keeping Cory’s Field in tiptop shape takes work; Cory’s father has been a willing laborer over the years, and he can dedicate more time now that he’s retired. On a sunny afternoon this summer, it came as a welcome surprise to see a young family investigating the open space behind the Plainfield Community Church for which he cares.

“This little girl came over (and asked), ‘What are you doing?’ ” Taber recalled on Wednesday, sitting in the shade of an oak tree next to the basketball court that is the crown jewel of a park built in his late son’s memory. “She was asking some really good questions for a little girl, so I said, ‘Here, I’ll tell you more about it.’ I went over and read her the plaque, and she was just so attentive. I went over and talked to her mom and the other kids playing on the playground, brought them over and showed them the plaque and explained it to them.

“We need more people like that.”

Aug. 28 marks the 31st anniversary of the unveiling of Cory’s Field, built for and dedicated to young Corin Taber, Cory to those who knew him, lost to a tragic collision of car and child in 1987. In the years since, it’s been important for Charlie Taber, his wife Becky and older son Breck to make sure Cory’s legacy remains. The field — with its play courts, slide, ballfield, picnic tables, benches and many trees — does that.

When the field needed money for an upgrade this summer, the Tabers learned Plainfield still remembered Cory. Even after more than 30 years.

Cory Taber died on June 24, 1987, a day after being hit by a car near Dartmouth College’s Leverone Field House after being dropped off for a day camp. He’d just finished third grade at Plainfield Elementary School. He was 9 years old.

Making use of space behind their church, the Tabers opened Cory Taber Memorial Field a little over a year later. The idea came from Charlie’s father, Donald, and it drew financial, material, emotional and physical support from people and businesses throughout the Upper Valley.

Such a park requires upkeep, and the Tabers have had a full list of chores of late. Charlie and others spent the summer scraping and repainting the pressure-treated wood fence along Peterson Road, the park’s southern perimeter. A downed pine tree took out five sections of chain-link fence by the ballfield backstop. A hot, dry summer combined with skunks digging for grubs killed the field’s grass last summer, requiring a full reseeding.

An ongoing fund to cover maintenance costs picked up much of that expense, but it wasn’t going to take care of side-by-side basketball and tennis courts that were showing 30 years of wear. With a $16,000 estimate for repair, a Byrne Foundation gift helped boost the fund but more money would be needed — and quickly — to move forward with the work this summer.

So Becky Taber tried a fundraising source no one could have imagined when Cory was alive: social media. Using a Facebook post in late June, she initially sought $500 in donations. She ended up receiving more than $5,000.

“We heard from classmates of Cory who we hadn’t heard from in years who no longer live in town, from out west,” Charlie said. “Names we didn’t recognize because maybe they have different Facebook names or something. In talking with them, the response was overwhelming.”

Advantage Tennis, a Passumpsic, Vt., company, took on the job. When a slot in their mid-July schedule opened up, workers came down and brought the courts back to life. A college student working for the business created a logo bearing Cory’s initials and had it painted at center court. In addition to restriping the tennis court, Advantage also painted two surfaces for pickleball, another thing that didn’t exist in Cory’s day.

The fence surrounding the court was tightened, the fence behind the baseball backstop repaired. Two foursquare playing surfaces fill a space behind one of the basketball hoops.

Cory’s Field now resembles a more mature version of the park dedicated nearly 31 years ago, where a plaque reflecting Cory’s image still bears a message:

“This is an ‘Awesome’ field, and it is hoped that it is shared and enjoyed by many children of all ages, whether participating in a sport, having a picnic or just sitting in the park.”

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Recalling Cory still causes a voice to crack, eyes to look downward, teeth to hold a lip in place, momentary silence to visit.

Charlie Taber has occasionally come to Cory’s Field to find basketballs, footballs and other toys scattered about the property, unreturned to a mesh bag reserved for storage. That’s minor compared to instances of vandalism — graffiti on the playground, miniature basketball hoops broken by rim-hanging nincompoops — that have occurred in the past.

Each time, the Tabers bear their grief, then get back to honoring their son.

“The thing that’s difficult now, to some degree, is it’s a new generation that aren’t really aware of what this is all about,” Charlie noted. “It’s ‘the field’ or it’s ‘the park,’ but it isn’t necessarily Cory Taber’s field. Who is he? A lot of people know, but not everybody.”

Commit this to memory, then.

Cory Taber loved sports. He would have been a stockier, more muscular counterpart to his older brother, who grew up angular and lean, eventually played college soccer and now coaches the Lebanon High girls. Cory might have been built for football, “but he would have played soccer,” his father said.

Cory Taber was inquisitive. When he asked Plainfield School authorities why girls could wear hats in school and boys couldn’t, it led to Cory Taber Hat Day, when anyone can wear a hat in the building. Cory got to enjoy it once before he died; it’s still part of the school calendar.

Cory Taber wanted to be involved. He’d sometimes go to bed in tears, his parents recalled, because he felt he was being left out of something. When Breck could stay up late or friends visited in the evening, Cory’s parents would see their younger son’s eyes peering through the stairway balustrades, making sure he knew what was happening.

Those memories are now contained in a beautiful park. A line of flowering crabapple trees has grown into lovely shade for multiple benches, two barbecue grills and picnic tables. Soccer fields will be lined for play in the fall, as they have been for years.

Charlie and Becky Taber moved to Grantham in 2001, so getting over to their son’s field is more of a geographical challenge today. But return they do. Over and over again.

“It’s just a fun place, a happy place to come think of him,” Becky Taber said. “The different stuff he would be happy doing: basketball, baseball, soccer. We wanted a quiet place to sit; it’s why the park part is here. We didn’t want it to be just a sports venue.”

“It’s been a long time,” Charlie Taber added. “And it feels like yesterday.”

Contact the Plainfield Community Church at 603-675-6510 for information on donating to the Cory Taber Memorial Field maintenance fund. Any donations sent to the church should indicate they are to be used for Cory’s Field.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.




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