When the grass gets high Phil Moyer mows the lawn. But Moyer’s lawn is not at his home, it’s LaNoce Park in Wissahickon. He doesn’t work for the city. He just loves the park. He even helped build it.
Moyer is the long-time citizen caretaker of the neighborhood green-space and the nearby war memorial. He has tended it for decades on his own time, paying for supplies with his own money.
“I’ve always taken quite a bit of pride in my neighborhood,” said Moyer as he got ready to spruce up the park for the weekend. “My whole life has been in this town.”
Moyer often refers to Wissahickon as “this town”. His civic spirit is a perfect fit in a community that came together to build LaNoce Park in the 1980s and the war memorial in the 1930s.
Before there was LaNoce Park, Wissahickon Elementary stood on the site. Moyer, who went to St. John’s, had a job delivering milk there as a kid. By the 1970s, the school was abandoned and it caught fire, leaving a patch of blight.
Shortly after the debris was cleared, Moyer and other neighbors hatched a plan to beautify the space. They planted trees and grass and lobbied the city to get the property transferred from the school board to the parks department. Impressed by their efforts, they gained the support of City Councilman Al Perleman and Mayor Wilson Goode.
In 1984, LaNoce Park was dedicated to the delight of residents with the mayor in attendance.
Goode was “like a hero,” recalled Chip Roller of the Wissahickon Interested Citizens Association. “There were lines to shake his hand.”
Meanwhile, Moyer quietly continued to take care of the park. When city resources are few, he steps in. For years, he did so with a push mower. “I was in good shape,” he laughed. Now he has a gas mower, weed wackers, and other equipment.
The Wissahickon War Memorial
Originally just an honor roll at Sumac Street and Manayunk Avenue that listed the names of area vets from the WWI, In the late 1930’s the memorial was enlarged and moved down the block to its current location on Rochelle Avenue, across from the train station. A now defunct Wissahickon Memorial Association helped raise funds for the addition of monuments for veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
It has grown still bigger and more elaborate, largely due to the efforts of Moyer and other neighborhood supporters. Moyer plants flowers, cuts the grass, puts out flags and Christmas lights. He helps organize the neighborhood Memorial Day parade that climaxes with a ceremony at the monument.
For years, Moyer got Ed Rendell to attend the parade and once managed to get a tank to drive to the monument as part of the festivities. “I called the police and told them I was going to have a big piece of equipment come through and they said alright,” he recalled. After they saw the tank, however, they asked that he not make it a yearly tradition.
His efforts have not gone unappreciated. In 2006, neighbors planted a tree in his honor and put up a plaque in gratitude for his service. Then councilman Michael Nutter sent an aide to the ceremony, but Moyer is modest and his daughter had to concoct a ruse to get him there for fear that he wouldn’t come.
Moyer is quick to point out that a lot of people worked to get the park and maintain it. Concerned citizens have written grants and worked with city officials. He singles out Ed LaSota, who he worked with on the park and has since passed away like so many of the vets that helped with the war memorial.
Moyer doesn’t work for admiration. “To me, the plaque meant that people were interested in the park,” he said, and that is where he gets his satisfaction.