Metro parks were always a place where the Tokes family went for relaxation, enjoyment and quality family time.
“As our kids were growing up, we’d often go to the parks in the area we lived (in Maumee) on Sunday afternoons and just enjoy being in nature,” Lisa McCrary-Tokes said.
On June 5, the Tokes family gathered at Scioto Grove Metro Park in Grove City to dedicate a memorial to Reagan Tokes.
Tokes, 21, was abducted after leaving work in Columbus’ Short North neighborhood Feb. 8, 2017. She was robbed, raped and shot twice in the head, according to police reports, and her body was discovered Feb. 9 just inside the entrance to Scioto Grove.
Brian L. Golsby was convicted of the crime in 2018 and sentenced to life in prison.
The memorial garden can’t take away the pain and eternal loss her family feels, said McCrary-Tokes, Reagan’s mother. But it provides solace, comfort and a way to remember Reagan, she said.
“At least now when I come to this park, I can have a sense of serenity and calm instead of an overwhelming feeling of darkness and foreboding,” McCrary-Tokes said.
McCrary-Tokes attended the June 5 ceremony with her husband, Toby Tokes, and their daughter, McKenzie, 19, who is a student at the University of Alabama.
When viewed from the air, the memorial garden resembles an angel.
“That’s what Reagan is – our angel,” McCrary-Tokes said.
The memorial is meant to inspire “peace, love, calm and warmth” in those who visit, and those words define what Reagan was all about, she said.
The memorial features a number of elements that are a reflection of Reagan, McCrary-Tokes said.
It sits near a small pond, reflective of Reagan’s love of water and her astrological sign, Pisces, she said. The pond also serves as a habitat for frogs, a species for which Reagan had a particular fondness.
The plaque is Tiffany blue, Reagan’s favorite color, and it features a Celtic symbol of love, the same symbol used in the logo for the foundation the family had created after Reagan’s death.
The Reagan Delaney Tokes Memorial Foundation, which the family created, has awarded almost $200,000 in scholarships to students at Ohio State University, where Reagan was scheduled to graduate; at Anthony Wayne High School, Reagan’s alma mater; and at her church, Maumee United Methodist Church.
Five buckeye trees have been planted at the memorial site as another way to honor Reagan, who was three months away from completing a degree in psychology and a little more than a month from her 22nd birthday when she was killed.
“We look forward to the time when the trees will be blooming and being able to see all the buckeyes,” said Larry Peck, deputy director of Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks.
After Reagan’s death, the Metro Parks staff created a temporary memorial at the entrance to Scioto Grove, he said.
“We wanted to do something way more permanent to honor Reagan,” Peck said.
The family had the same idea and started working with Metro Parks to create a permanent memorial, McCrary-Tokes said.
The final design was among three created and submitted to the family by Christopher DelGrosso, whom Peck selected for the project. DelGrosso is the former assistant park manager at Scioto Audubon Metro Park in Columbus and serves as assistant manager for construction and engineering for Metro Parks. He has a background in landscape architecture.
“I put myself in the position of being a parent who lost a daughter and the pain I could only imagine you would always feel,” DelGrosso said.
He said he wanted to create a space that paid tribute and reflected everything Reagan’s family wanted to people to know about her.
“We were able to integrate the Celtic symbol of love to create an unbroken chain of love and a place for people to reflect and remember,” DelGrosso said.
What makes the memorial so special is the Tokes family’s desire to create a space that can serve as a site of reflection for everyone, he said.
One of his favorite features is the swing that allows people to sit and view the sunrise and sunset, DelGrosso said.
Metro Parks manages about 28,000 acres in central Ohio, Peck said.
“This may be the most powerful place in the park system, now and forever,” he said.
“Our goal (in establishing the memorial) was to make sure no one would forget Reagan,” Toby Tokes said during the ceremony. “It’s a place where people can remember Reagan and their own loved ones.”
The Tokes family lives in Florida, but the memorial “will make us feel a little more at peace” with what had happened to Reagan there, he said.
“Reagan’s spirit will be here always,” McCrary-Tokes said. “People will have the ability to come here, sit and reflect and enjoy the elements and being with nature, which has always been important to Reagan and our entire family.”