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How Mr. Bob helped transform Bellmeade into 'the most beautiful park in Richmond'

Posted at 9:23 AM, Aug 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-26 18:33:34-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Lulu Holliday looks forward to getting her green thumb filthy. The Richmond woman is a fixture in the garden at Bellmeade Park. It is something she couldn’t envision just a couple of years ago.

”It is a blessing,” Holliday said. “It was a pass-through to get to another area. That’s it. It was desolate. It had grass. Not many trees.”

The six-acre park on Richmond’s south side was an eyesore. Bob Argabright saw through the weeds and garbage and saw great potential.

“It was all overgrown with honeysuckle, poison ivy, English Ivy, and privet. You couldn’t even put your hand through any places that were here,” Argabright said.

The volunteer at the old Oak Grove Elementary launched a Bellmeade blitz about a decade ago.

“They all come into this world like a piece of clay,” Argabright said. “So you bring a child into this world you need to shape them.”

The retired executive who specialized in turning corporations around set his sights on the park.

The 79-year-old from the other side of the city recruited volunteers like Mark Bennett.

“By making the park appealing the kids want to come here,” Bennett said. “He is priceless you can’t even describe what he has accomplished here.”

Argabright convinced businesses to donate material and urged neighbors to take ownership.

“You might be the conductor but you can’t play every instrument. That isn’t possible,” Argabright said. “So many people have touched this property and continue to touch it.”

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John Harris, with the City of Richmond Parks and Rec Department, said that Bob’s ‘can do’ spirit earned him a friend forever.

“When you’re trying to help kids that dig deeps to me. I’m with you 100%,” Harris said. “I don’t think people realize what kind of treasure it is having Bob. You run across a guy like that once or twice in a lifetime.”

“I’d say this is the most beautiful park in all of Richmond," Argabright said. "I don’t know one that you can compare it to."

Bellmeade’s gardens yield fresh veggies and sunflowers stretch toward the sky. The park even has its own bike shop.

“The kids then can volunteer with me for three hours," Argabright said. "They will then get a bike and we will teach them how to repair that bike."

The urban oasis allows children to play, grow, and learn.

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The city honored Argabright by naming the park’s bridge in his honor.

“If somebody said to me what are you trying to do I would have said I was trying to build bridges,” Argabright said.

The married father appreciates the gesture but he’s not much for accolades. His satisfaction comes from seeing appreciative people use the park.

“He won’t be here forever none of us will,” Holliday said. “But as long as he will be here he will make that worth his while you know? Why sit at home?”

If you’re ever looking for Bob Argabright, begin at Bellmeade.

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“Worship is a frame of mind. So I can worship in the Church of Bellmeade,” Argabright said.

Mr. Bob plants himself here from Sunday to Saturday.

“There is no other place I’d rather be than right here,” he said. “I told my wife don’t look for a place to scatter my ashes. Sneak down here when the time comes and spread them wherever you want and that way I’ll never leave the park."

“This is his heart and soul,” Harris said. “He is never leaving!”

Classes are held every Saturday morning at Bellmeade Park for children and teens beginning at 10 a.m. The invitation is for everyone. Bellmeade Park’s entrance is on Mimosa Street not far from Richmond Highway.

Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.

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