Daughter of Fairfield Twp. firefighter upset over park-naming decision

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Daughter of Fairfield Twp. firefighter upset over park-naming decision

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Michael D. Pitman
Fairfield Twp. trustees voted last month against naming the unnamed park at Morris and Millikin roads for the late township assistant fire chief Paul McKendry. However, the majority of the trustees said there are other ways to honor the township’s first full-time fire department employee that died in February 2009. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Missy McKendry said she is “beyond disappointed” that the unnamed Millikin and Morris roads park, located behind the place her father worked for more than two decades, won’t be named for him.

Fairfield Twp. Trustees voted 2-1 against a proposal submitted by citizens to name the park with no formal name after the late Fairfield Twp. assistant fire chief Paul McKendry, who died in February 2009. He was the township’s first full-time fire department employee.

McKendry said she never pursued the naming of the park for her father, saying, “This was not my family’s project.”

But she said she struggles understanding the resistance to the proposal by trustees Shannon Hartkemeyer and Susan Berding. And while she said “nothing” can really be done at this point, she hopes decisions can be changed.

“It wasn’t my fight,” McKendry said of the initial introduction of the proposal. “But now I’m in.”

The majority of the trustees said that while his many accomplishments — including co-founding the Explorer’s program in the township and volunteering as a Boy Scout troop leader — were noble and honorable, they didn’t rise to the level of naming a park after him.

Hartkemeyer and Berding said the township’s naming protocols adopted by the board in May require a high standard to be met before naming a park or a building after a person. If the park, which is informally known as the Morris/Millikin Road park and Firefighter’s Park, is named for a person, it should be for the Clawson family, Hartkemeyer said.

That family sold the land to the township for $1 as opposed to selling it to a commercial or residential developer.

“That park was made possible through the benevolences of the Clawson family,” said Hartkemeyer.

The Clawson family sold part of their family farm to the township for what is now Fairfield North Elementary for $9,450 and for what is now the Fairfield Twp. fire headquarters and administration building for $35,000.

McKendry questions naming the park for the Clawson family, saying, “Nobody knows that name. People know my dad’s name.”

Hartkemeyer and Berding have said there are other opportunities in the township to honor McKendry, such as naming an item within the Morris/Millikin Road park for him or even a training room or the street leading to the new township fire station at a yet-to-be-determined location.

“By all accounts, Paul McKendry was a kind, decent man who loved kids and our community,” Hartkemeyer said. “I understand the passion and loyalty Miss McKendry and her friends are showing to honor Paul’s memory. At some point soon, I hope there will be a place to honor and remember him.”

While it’s important to remember all of the citizens that contributed to build the township, “without the Clawson family’s generosity, the park would not even exist,” she said.

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