Despite being the latest recipients of the Saint Anthony Park Community Foundation’s Spirit of the Park Award, Kiki Gore doesn’t consider herself or her husband, Warren, special.
“They give an award to someone in the community that has exemplified the spirit of the community,” she said. But the spirit of the community is that “the community itself pushes people to be involved. We all know our neighbors and we all help each other out. I think that Warren and I are just being used as examples.”
Jon Schumacher, executive director of the foundation, sees it differently. “Warren and Kiki were chosen for the very reason that they think being inclusive, welcoming, involved and supportive is no big deal,” he said.
“From Warren’s longtime commitment to our branch library to Kiki’s famous knitted baby hats sent near and far, they are neighbors who understand what community means and how it works best.”
The Gores have lived in St. Anthony Park for 43 years. They moved to the Twin Cities 45 years ago, intending to stay for just one year, but then Warren received a position in the Rhetoric Department at the University of Minnesota, which was located on the St. Paul campus at that time. The Gores made their home near Grand Avenue by Macalester College.
“After the first year we decided that we didn’t want to live anywhere else; we absolutely loved it,” Gore said. “Warren’s wonderful department chairman said, ‘We need to move you closer to the campus so that you don’t have to drive back and forth,’ which appealed to me because we’ve always lived near where Warren’s worked, and so we came to SAP not knowing what a wonderful community it was.”
The proximity to home from Warren’s office made a big difference to the Gores, Kiki said. They were raising a son and daughter as Warren worked at the university and Kiki taught high school Spanish. She taught at both Como Park Senior and Central high schools and at St. Paul Academy.
It didn’t take long for the couple to become involved in the community. In 1970, the St. Anthony Park Library Association sponsored the first neighborhood arts festival, and Warren and Kiki were active in the festival for years afterward.
“He was president of SAP library board and was, every year without fail, down there arranging the flags and putting up the booths,” Kiki said. “He was always involved with the library book sale and the art fair and getting things organized.”
Out of that involvement came a lifelong love for the library and the community that surrounded it. Warren planted the flower boxes that line the library’s windows for many years with volunteers from the community that included local high school students and Boy Scouts.
“He always involved other people because he thought it was important,” she said. His volunteer activities included being president of St. Anthony Park Elementary School’s parent-teacher association and 4-H.
“He was just a wonderful, active person. Not only that, he’s just a really nice person. He was always willing to help out, and that’s what people notice about him. Funny, loves a good chuckle and loves to never disappoint anybody.”
These days Warren is living at St. Anthony Park Home while Kiki continues to keep their home on Raymond Avenue. Spending just an hour in their house shows what mainstays they are to the neighborhood. Neighbors and friends stop by for visits and Kiki is always up for a chat.
“How is the family? Are you still taking dance classes? I can’t wait to see your next show,” she says to neighbor children who stopped by on a recent afternoon. The house is filled with photographs of the Gores’ children and relatives.
While Kiki and Warren remain modest about their contributions to the community, it’s not hard to see why these kind, energetic people are being honored.
The Gores were presented with the award during the Fourth in the Park celebration on Thursday, July 4, at Langford Park. A $500 donation was given to the Fourth in the Park committee in the Gores’ name.
Marlee Leebrick-Stryker is a recent graduate of Beloit College and is spending the summer writing for Twin Cities publications.