Jessica and Corey Peart are volunteers with Team Overton Park. They choose to give back to the park because it’s been such a major part of their history together. They sat down to tell us what Overton Park means to them.
Corey: I’m originally from Illinois, and I lived in Indianapolis after college. That’s where I was living when I met Jessica at a conference in Phoenix, Arizona. I lived in Indianapolis for three years, and she also lived there the first two years that I did, but we never met each other.
I moved down to Memphis in May 2011. By that time, Jessica lived here, and we’d been dating for a while. After I moved, we were looking to get a dog.
Jessica: That was the deal: he moved, and we would get a dog.
Corey: Right, because we already had three cats, and I wanted a puppy. We came running in Overton Park a lot, because we could walk to the park from our place in Midtown. And one of the days that we came by, there was a couple that had five or six puppies out in the park. Jessica started playing with one of them, and it kind of gravitated toward her. The couple said, “That’s the only one we haven’t found a home for yet.”
Jessica: The old sob story, you know…
Corey: So we knew we had to get him at that point. Since we had met at that conference, we named him Phoenix. We took him home that day, so that’s where our Overton Park story starts. That would have been in June, about a month after I moved here. We got engaged on October 2. I proposed a day earlier than I’d planned, because we met on the third of December, so every third of the month, we’d celebrate something.
I’d had the ring for a week or two beforehand, and I was going to do it on the third. But then she decided that Sunday the 2nd, she wanted to go to the park. Nothing ever works out like you think in your head. I thought the park would be a good place to propose, because she’d always said, “I don’t want to be around a lot of people, I don’t want the spotlight on me,” and I figured it’d be kind of secluded out there.
So I grabbed the ring, I put it in my pocket, and we were walking the dog around the park. When we first got out there, she asked me if I’d brought something with me, but I tried to avoid the question and somehow got away with it. We were walking around for a while, and I didn’t know when I was going to do it, or how it was going to come out. I wanted to do it right when we got there, but I couldn’t get the courage at that point. It’s kind of a nerve-wracking process, because you hold all the power at this point: she doesn’t really know it’s coming, you’ve got it in your hands and you’ve gotta make it happen. And she has this image in her head of what it’s gonna be like. So I have to put all that together.
By the time we got halfway through the park, I looked around to make sure nobody was there, and she was walking in front of me with the dog. I said, “Can you turn around for a second?” Phoenix was pulling her on the leash, so she turned around and said, “What’s going on?” But when she turned around, I was on my knee with the ring in my hand.
Jessica: We were on the trail that backs up to the zoo, in that last spot before you get around to where the wolves are. Here I am in my Nike running pants, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and a baseball cap. I was dealing with the dog—he was pulling me, so I was fussing at him. Then Corey’s behind me, grabbing my other arm, and I’m saying, “What?” I’m in a tug-of-war with these two! I turn around and I said, “Really?” And then I laughed, and he cried. Yes, he cried. It was very sweet. Then later on the walk, we stopped at some point and put our hands on top of each other and took a picture in the woods.
Since we found Phoenix here, and since he proposed to me here, that’s why we’re so involved in the park and try to participate in all the volunteer initiatives we can. When I run in the park, everyone I run by is always waving and saying hello. If you’re a runner, it’s a great place to come, because it’s ten degrees cooler in the summer to run in the forest.
Corey: It always seems inviting when you come here—the people are genuinely friendly. It’s never too crowded. It’s very open and inviting. It’s something that brings this part of town together.