A crowd of several hundred Miami- Dade County Parks Department co-workers along with friends and family paid tribute to administrator Maria “Mary” J. Abreu on June 2 by dedicating one of Tropical Park’s first buildings in her name. Described as “the person behind the scenes who kept everything in order” by Parks Department director Jack Kardys, Abreu died after two battles with cancer during an 11-year period prior to her passing on Oct. 31, 2011.
“Her tireless passion and commitment to improving our Miami-Dade County community has left an enduring legacy for residents of all ages,” said County Commissioner Javier Souto. “For many years, she was crucial to the successful development of the county park system we all enjoy today.”
Souto, who sponsored the dedicatory resolution to honor Abreu, joined Kardys and Juan Abreu, her widower, to remove a banner from lettering that now designates a one-story pavilion as “The Mary Abreu Community Center.”
“This is especially appropriate since Mary worked at this building during her early years after she joined the department in 1989,” Kardys told a seated audience and more than 200 others standing and seated in a grandstand erected for the occasion.
“She would have been especially proud that so many people came to this dedication,” Juan Abreu said. “She loved her family, too; she was the glue that kept us together during all of her years with the Parks Department.”
Also participating in the program was Pastor Alan Sielk of St. Paul Lutheran Church who gave the invocation prior to the unveiling of the banner, dedication of a plaque and ribbon cutting at the pavilion’s entrance doors.
During her Parks Department service, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Professional Administration from Barry University while working fulltime and caring for a growing family.
Her near quarter-century career, which began on Dec. 26, 1989, as a Park Service Aide at Kendall’s McMillan Park, saw her rise through several positions to become the department’s intergovernmental affairs coordinator and assistant to director Kardys for 14 years.
Her service with the department was highlighted by her administrative support for the Children’s Trust grant sites, serving more than 400 youth at Miami-Dade parks, and her leadership of several boards and committees, including the department’s Citizens Advisory Committee, USA Track and Field Youth Athletic National Championships and National Junior Olympics.
A Miami native, she was born May 31, 1963, at Jackson Memorial Hospital where one of her three daughters, Melissa, now serves as a nurse. Her early schooling began at Shenandoah Elementary School before graduation from Miami Senior High School.
Her marriage on June 17, 1983, to Juan Abreu, a Miami Realtor, followed the raising of her family at the couple’s Kendall home near Royal Green Park just south of Coral Way.
In addition to her husband, her survivors include her parents, Julius and Maria (Saunders); five children, Cynthia Dominguez; Jennifer Mila; Juan, Melissa, and Christina Abreu, and four grandchildren.