Amid the fragrance of mountain laurel and honeysuckle, Harry Shaw leaned along the railing of the Crescent Overlook and saw in his mind’s eye those summer days of yesteryear, when he splashed in the gentle waters below what is now Cross Creek Linear Park not far from his childhood home on Hawley Lane.
The moment was poignant.
Shaw’s work of more than 12 years on this long and winding park was all but finished, and this was Shaw’s moment for reflection.
The year was 2016.
“We used to walk out there when nothing was there,” says Anthony Ramsey, 62, the landscape architect for Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks & Recreation who worked with Shaw on the park.
Ramsey was there from day one of the 2.7-mile park that begins at Festival Park, runs past Maiden Lane, across Green Street and Cross Creek Park, behind and around Evans Metropolitan AME Zion Church, through Cross Creek Cemetery No. 1 near Hawley Lane, under Grove Street and toward U.S. 301.
The work was hard, and the days were long. Ramsey remembers Shaw’s feeling of accomplishment as the final phase of the park was nearing completion.
“You could see he was at home. And he knew one day people would use this trail for years to come. He was so excited to make it happen. He would give me a vision, and we would put it on paper, and we were a good team. We were buddies. He was so kind. He respected me for what I knew.”
‘What we make it’
Shaw, who died in May 2018, was humble and appreciative on a summer afternoon in 2017 at the ribbon-cutting to mark Linear Park’s completion. He reminded those in attendance that the park was about more than the trails and tributaries.
“Finishing it proves to us that we can work together,” Shaw said. “It proves to us that we can accomplish good things for our city, even though it might take a while. It proves to us that we can give of ourselves. And it proves to me that we have some of the most unselfish people. This is our town — our town. What it is is what we make it.’’
Today you’ll find couples pushing baby strollers along the winding walkways and trails, along with joggers, walkers and bicyclists. And others are just taking in an afternoon of leisure and beauty at Cross Creek Linear Park.
Just like Shaw dreamed the park should be.
“It was the water and the nature of how the river was just there,” Claire Shaw says about her late husband’s vision. “The beauty of it. He had a love of the water, and he wanted it exposed and preserved.”
A love for Fayetteville
Harry Shaw was a native of Fayetteville, one of four children of William Mitchell and Helen Martin Shaw. His father was the longtime postmaster in the city and on Fort Bragg. Helen Shaw was a homemaker who later cataloged books at the downtown library.
They raised their children in a white, two-story Queen Anne home on Hawley Lane. Shaw loved waking up to a summer breeze and hanging out with boyhood friends like Ezekiel Smith, Neil Bell, Hector McKeithan, Tommy Kyle, E.C. Bass, and the Sessoms, Maultsby, Haire, Buie and Bullard boys.
They marveled on the day Babe Ruth came to town for a baseball game and when the carnival came with its elephants. Shaw loved swimming in Cross Creek with his brother Bill, who died in 1944 during World War II.
Shaw served in the Navy during that war.He graduated from Davidson College and returned home to Fayetteville with his first wife, Sarah Stewart Shaw. They raised a son and two daughters.
He knew every downtown street and almost every face found there. After all, he was the postmaster’s son.
He worked for Home Federal Savings and Loan Association for 32 years. He later became an appraiser and served on numerous civic boards, including those of the Lafayette Society and Cape Fear Botanical Garden. He also was on the board of trustees of Fayetteville Technical Community College, with 29 years as chairman, and he was a member of the Fayetteville City Council.
“But he never wanted to be mayor,” Claire Shaw says.
‘Indelible imprint on FTCC’
Shaw wanted the best for FTCC and its students.
“Harry Shaw was one of the most instrumental people in the history of Fayetteville,” says Larry Keen, the college’s longtime president. “No one loved this community more than he did. You can look at his history — his business career, his service as an FTCC trustee and his philanthropic work on behalf of this community. It’s indicative of his care for our community and its people.
“He left an indelible imprint on FTCC, where he served as a trustee for 38 years, including 29 years as chairman of the board of trustees. The functionality and beauty of our campus make it easy to see how and where he helped guide the ship for many, many years.’’
And then there’s Linear Park, Shaw’s passion in his later years.
“He and others did such a wonderful job there in creating a lovely and peaceful green walkway through the heart of this city,” Keen says. “It’s a gem, and it’s another example of his care and expertise.”
Robert Barefoot, the retired parks and recreation director for the city, was with Shaw at the outset of the project and remembers Shaw’s passion for it.
“He played as a kid on it and always loved the confluence of Blount Creek and Cross Creek,” Barefoot says. “Even after Harry got cancer, I would say, ‘Harry, I’ll go down there.’ He’d say, ‘Nope, I’m coming with you.’ Harry was infectious. I’d say, ‘Harry, we can’t do that.’ But Harry was the supreme diplomat. He knew the art of compromise and how to talk to people.”
Harry Faison Shaw died May 19, 2018. He was 91.
“I couldn’t do nothing but cry,” Anthony Ramsey says.
‘He got it done’
Shaw is among the second group of downtown visionaries to be recognized by CityView Magazine. A luncheon is scheduled for June 29 at Segra Stadium.
Claire Shaw and daughters Faison Covington and Sally Schmitz are expected to accept the award on his behalf. And Anthony Ramsey, they say, will be with them.
“He would say, ‘Give the award to Anthony,’” says Covington, 73, who lives in Charlotte. “I think Daddy sort of thought of Anthony as a son. Daddy took him under his wing. Daddy wanted to get the park done before he died, and he got it done.”
Schmitz says the park was everything to her father.
“He thought Fayetteville was the most wonderful city in the world,” she says. “He did everything he could to make Fayetteville wonderful. He loved Fayetteville as much as he did his family. And Daddy loved Anthony, too.”
The park is a picturesque walk from its gently meandering streams to the rushing waters by the Steve Fleming-designed cascading staircase near Grove Street. Stops along the way include the Ashton Lilly Memorial Fountain, Marquis de Lafayette statue at Cross Creek Park, First Presbyterian Church, St. John’s Episcopal Church, the historic Kyle House, the 19th-century Evans AME Zion Church, Cool Spring Tavern and the old Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry parade ground.
“Harry Shaw was a man who served the city of Fayetteville in so many ways,” says Bruce Daws, the city historian. “Cross Creek Linear Park was a vision dreamed of by many people dating back to the antebellum period. It was Harry Shaw that had the drive and determination to bring the project to fruition.”
Along the Crescent Overlook
Harry Shaw leaned over the railing of the Crescent Overlook on a bright and sunny summer day when Cross Creek Linear Park was in all its splendor.
“It may be my project,” said Shaw, his hair blowing in the breeze. “But it’s not my park.”
The park belongs to Fayetteville’s residents and visitors for generations to come, and Harry Shaw would have it no other way.