Jim Novak, second from right, speaks during the dedication of Novak Plaza and Mary Kay’s Garden on June 20, 2024, in Czech Village. Watching, from left to right, are, Monica Vernon, Pat McGrath, and Jim Piersall, chairman of the self-supported municipal improvement district. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Rain that drizzled down throughout a dedication ceremony in Czech Village was heaven-sent, according to guests speakers who honored the memory of Mary Kay Novak McGrath.

“I think it’s obvious that Mary Kay is here, because it’s raining,” Mary Kay’s husband, Pat McGrath, said during the June 20, 2024, dedication of Novak Plaza and Mary Kay’s Garden, pointing to the many perennial flowers planted by volunteers.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell speaks during the June 20 dedication ceremony. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Mary Kay, who purchased eight Czech Village buildings in 2018 that had been inundated by the unprecedented 2008 flood, died Feb. 28 after battling cancer. She was 69.

The buildings were transformed into an old-fashioned candy story/ice cream shop, cafe and more to continue the essence of community and family life that Mary Kay’s family experienced in Czech Village, said Monica Vernon, administrator of the Czech Village/ New Bohemia Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District, which funded the project along with donors.

Related: Czech Village soda fountain evokes bygone era

Purple coneflower, hydrangea, and other plants, such as peonies, that she remembered her mother and grandmother growing, enhance the plaza, at 48 16th Ave. SW, created in front of the “Mucha Meets Iowa” mural. Friends from Iowa City and Cedar Rapids donated and planted many of the perennials.

A metal sign indicating Mary Kay’s Garden was placed during the dedication ceremony. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

The lot had been vacant and overgrown since the longtime Saddle & Leather Shop was demolished after the 2008 flood. Vernon said she and Mary Kay met over “a lot of coffees” and sketched Mary Kay’s design on a napkin to transform the site to honor her parents, Frank and Eileen (Krumm) Novak, who frequented the shops in Czech Village.

Several in the crowd of about 50 people wore T-shirts designed with angel’s wings and Mary Kay’s name.

T-shirts designed in Mary Kay’s honor were worn by some of the attendees. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Vernon presented a metal garden sign to Mary Kay and Pat McGrath’s children, Lindsay, Gavin and Jaymie, which two of her grandchildren placed in the garden.

A coffee table and benches are centered in the garden, flanked by metal arches created by Dale Merrill of Liberty Iron Works of Mount Vernon, with design by Tammy Stines, a freelance graphic designer.

Jim Novak, Mary Kay’s brother, noted that his grandparents and great-grandparents spent a good part of their lives in Czech Village, and his parents would be amazed with the transformation.

“My dad would’ve never dreamed anything like this was possible,” he said.

Read more: Visionaries honored in Czech Village and New Bohemia and see more photos from the dedication ceremony, below: