Tom Petty would have turned 68-years-old on Oct. 20, and his family and fans found a special way to remember him. The late Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers frontman, who died Oct. 2, 2017, was honored with a dedication at a Florida park in his name.
Petty’s family lived a block from the park and it was a second home for him when he was growing up, his younger brother Bruce said.
“My brother and I grew up in this park. We played as kids. My cousin reminded me the other day of my remark that it was a sanctuary, and it really was. It was a place for us to escape and be kids and have fun. The fact that we are doing this today and the part that we played in it makes it so much more special.”
Petty’s daughter, Adria Petty, added that while she was raised in Los Angeles, her father often brought her back to his north Florida hometown. Adria also referenced her father’s previously unreleased homage to his hometown, a song titled “Gainesville” that appears on Tom Petty’s posthumous four-CD box set An American Treasure.
“Gainesville is an extraordinary place and if you listen to my dad’s music here, it has a different meaning. The idea of the air smelling good and the trees are green — there is nothing like this park to really illustrate that. ‘Gainesville’ has been blasting in my head since I landed.”
Petty’s daughter, AnnaKim, also posted a photo of herself in her dad’s park, which you can see below.
In addition to the park dedication, Florida artists Carrie and Jesus Martinez painted a Tom Petty Mural at the Sidney Lanier Center, which is the elementary school Petty attended as a child.
Tom Petty was born in Gainesville, Florida, on Oct. 20, 1950. Once his music career took off, he relocated to California, but he never forgot his Florida roots. Petty once told NPR that growing up in the college town of Gainesville enabled him to interact with a diverse variety of people.
“[Gainesville] is an interesting place because you can meet almost any kind of person from many walks of life because of the university,” Petty said. “But it’s really surrounded by this kind of very rural kind of people that are — you know, they’re farmers or tractor drivers or just all kinds of — game wardens, you name it. So it’s an interesting blend.”
Take a look at the video below to see Tom Petty giving a tour of his Gainesville hometown for MTV.