Fruitland Park commissioner honors late father with family donation to new library

City Commissioner Chris Bell and members of his family recently presented the Fruitland Park Library with a $10,000 donation for a children’s garden center at the new facility.

The donation, in honor of Bell’s late father, Virgil, was presented at a recent Fruitland Park Commission meeting.

Fruitland Park Commissioner Chris Bell and his family make a $10,000 donation to the Fruitland Park Library recently. The money will be used to create a children’s garden in honor of Bell’s late father, Virgil.

The new outdoor space will consist of lush paths leading to a giant 12-foot-by-12-foot chess board and a sensory butterfly garden featuring plants native to Florida. The garden will honor the memory of Virgil Bell, who passed away at the age of 91.

“Virgil was one of our favorite patrons at the library,” Library Director Jo-Ann Glendinning said.

Glendinning recalled discovering that that Virgil Bell was a self-taught artist who sought inspiration from pictures in children’s books. His talents spanned various mediums including ceramics, sculpture, painting, and pen-and-ink drawing.

“At the time of Virgil’s passing, I told Christopher Bell what my plans were for the children’s garden at the new library,” Glendinning said. “The children’s garden is my way of paying homage to him.”

Virgil Bell created 22 original pen-and-ink drawings of historical homes and landmarks in Fruitland Park. His canvas drawings will be featured at the new Fruitland Park Library, as well as a personalized plaque in his honor.

Fruitland Park Mayor Chris Cheshire said the city is extremely thankful for the generous donation from the Bell family.

“Mr. Virgil Bell was a great patron of the Fruitland Park Library and this children’s garden is a perfect way to honor his memory,” Cheshire said.

The Virgil Bell Memorial Gardens will be located on the children’s department side of the new Fruitland Park Library, which is located at 604 West Berckman St., just a few blocks away from the current location.

Construction of the new library started in March 2018 and finished in December. The building is in the process of being furnished as staff members prepare for its grand opening on Friday, July 19.