MIAMI-DADE — Arcola Park, its recreation center and a nearby roadway have been renamed for former park employees.
The three former parks department employees received the name honor for significant lifetime contributions to the Arcola community and the park, a statement said. Two of the honorees, Wynn and McKenzie, receive the recognition posthumously.
“These three individuals show us that we can truly make a difference in the lives that we touch. This great park is a reflection of their passion for community service and dedication in serving the recreational needs of county residents,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez.
“As former county employees and citizens they are an inspiration to all.”
These namings are the result of resolutions sponsored by Commissioner Monestime and the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners.
“I am truly honored to be able to present these tributes on behalf of the residents of this community.
Together these individuals have helped unite this neighborhood and have made this park a welcome site for neighbors and their children to gather and socialize for years to come. Such distinctions could not be more appropriate or well-deserved,” said Monestime.
In addition to the recreation center, the four-acre park has two lighted basketball courts, a lighted baseball field and a walking path open for public use.
“We take great pride in honoring our parks department comrades in this way.
Their positive actions for this park will long be remembered by fellow employees and the many families of this close-knit community. We are forever grateful for their contributions,” said Miami-Dade County Parks Director Jack Kardys.
A former Coconut Grove resident, Wynn distinguished himself as a prominent multi-sport athlete-competitor as well as a pioneer and role model for Miami-Dade’s African-American community.
Among his accomplishments, he was a long-time Miami-Dade Parks manager for the former Arcola Park and founder of the Miami Golf Connection, an amateur golf club which is now part of the Sunshine State Amateur Golf Association.
In the 1940s and ‘50s he played professional baseball for such legendary black baseball teams as the Coconut Grove Spiders, the Miami Giants, Palatka Blue Caps and the Kansas City Monarchs – where he fielded alongside baseball greats like Hank Aaron, John “Buck” O’Neil and Josh Gibson, known as “the black Babe Ruth.”
In earlier years, he also worked as a lifeguard on Virginia Key Beach.
He played ball for the Florida Normal and Industrial Institute’s baseball/football teams (now Florida Memorial University) and the 3rd US Army Quartermaster Corps baseball team during World War II. Wynn died Nov. 22, 2008 at 84 years old. He is survived by his son, Vincent.
Whitehead ran a successful Miami-Dade landscaping business for more than 35 years and worked part-time for the Parks Department as a night custodian at Arcola Park.
Among his civic service, he was treasurer for Northside Optimist Club, Commissioner of Sports for the Miami-Dade County Youth League and Deacon for St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church. Born in Unadilla, Ga. during the Great Depression, he relocated to Miami at age 20 with his family in search of better work.
Still residing in Miami, he and his wife Susie have been married for 58 years and they have two daughters.
McKenzie was a long-time Miami-Dade teacher and Parks Department employee. He spent much of his time at Arcola Park where he was a frequent and important presence.
He served in the US Air Force and graduated from Miami-Dade’s Booker T. Washington Senior High (1950) and Florida International University (1975) with a Bachelor’s degree in education.
McKenzie passed away on Aug. 23, 2008 and is survived by his wife Retha and their four children.