Remembering James “Jim” Painter



It was sometime in 2007 that we were working on the installation of what is perhaps Dreamers Garden’s greatest artistic accomplishment—The Gate of Philip by Yaw Owusu Shangofemi.  

It had taken quite a bit on our part to raise the funds for this beautiful wrought iron gate, and, once accepted by Interim Director David Flaherty from the Department of Parks of the City of Gainesville, two columns needed to be built to support the presence of this double-sided gate. It was Jeanne Rochford, then Director of Keep Alachua County Beautiful, who suggested that we contact Jim Painter as she felt he might be willing to help us with the bricks needed to build the two massive columns for this project. Jeanne said Mr. Jim Painter had been involved in local politics and had a masonry business. She, an eternal optimist, enthusiastically proposed that she was certain Mr. Painter would be interested in our project. Jeanne said he had a “brickyard” behind his office. We had never heard of this term, “brickyard,” but we were more than willing to contact this businessman who perhaps would share our enthusiasm for our very special project in a garden aspiring to be known as “Dreamers Garden.”  

We dutifully followed Jeanne’s lead, and Cristi Delgado and I showed up at his office one afternoon to point-blank ask if he would be interested in helping us with our project. To our delight, his answer was “yes,” provided we left the “antique bricks” untouched. This, we felt, we could certainly do.  

Right away, then and there, we undertook our task. It was, if I remember correctly, a sunny, windy day, perhaps in early March, when Cristi and I started ferreting among the weeds and through plenty of bricks in the brickyard behind his office. Cristi would pick up a brick, analyze it, and then either discard it or okay it and place it, sometimes two at a time, in the back of her Jeep. I was happy to do the same, often consulting with her and talking to each other in lively back-and-forth conversation.  

After filling up the back of her Jeep, we then brought the bricks to Dreamers Garden, where we placed them near the area where the two columns would be built. We visited this brickyard at least twice, more than likely thrice, until Parks Operations Manager Ed Sams scolded us by saying, “Maria, that is enough bricks!” It was Ed Sams and Barry Gulden who built the stout, square columns that to this day make the Gate of Philip display its grace to the world.  

On May 31, 2007, to the delight of our neighborhood and our city, the Mayor of Gainesville, Pegeen Hanrahan, and a number of distinguished officials, friends, neighbors, and musicians gathered at the garden to unveil the plaque that honors Philip Simmons, the then-National Living Treasure from Charleston, SC, in whose honor the Gate of Philip was built. Painter Masonry is among the project sponsors. It was important for us to recognize the source of our beautiful bricks because the brick columns and the wrought iron gate transformed our garden’s entrance into a thing of beauty.  

So, when we recently heard on one of our local radio stations that Jim Painter had passed away at the age of 71 from cancer, it was a bittersweet moment—Memento mori and gratitude.  

Thus, what can we add to the myriad things that have already been said about a man and a family that gave and continues to give so much to our community? We can say “thank you” again. To the loved ones who mourn his passing, we wish you blessings and inner peace.  

Jim Painter was a civic-minded, successful, and generous Mayor and businessman. As the bells toll for his passing, we express our gratitude to Jim Painter again for donating the beautiful bricks for the columns that support the historic Gate of Philip. For, when told in its totality, this story gave our garden a subtle chance to live up to its name: Dreamers Garden.  

Michelle Nagri’s “Into the Garden of Dreamers,” based on the Gate of Philip, was used as the poster for the 2019 Spring Arts Festival.

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  • Thanks Maria,

    We have all benefited from Jim’s love for the city, the bricks he helped build it with and his generosity, as well as yours.


  • That’s a wonderful tribute. We should all try to contribute something beautiful and long-lasting to the world, as a legacy. If not to the world, then certainly to our family and friends. Thank you, Mr. Painter.

  • I appreciate the efforts to create the Dreamers Garden. My daughter and myself spent time cleaning up the gardens in the past 2 years. I would appreciate , and so would the public, having the gates open to the public and signage clearing inviting the public to venture into the gardens. The gates are mostly always closed giving the appearance of a private property.

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