Residents push to name Fairfield Twp. park after beloved firefighter

Nearly 60 Fairfield Twp. residents want to see a township park at Morris and Millikin roads be renamed to honor a man who loved firefighting and children.

The 58 people who signed a petition are asking trustees to name the unnamed Fairfield Twp. park “Assistant Chief Paul McKendry Memorial Park” in honor of the firefighter who spent his entire career with the township and died on Feb. 23, 2009, at 51 years old.

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“I can’t say enough about him, what he has done with the fire department and with the community itself,” said resident Kevin Potter, who is among the petition signers. “He was at every event 99.99 percent of the time. That’s how dedicated he was. He loved to see the kids smiling.”

And Potter said McKendry, who has a scholarship given out annually in his name, wasn’t just a firefighter, but he was a mentor for the next generation of firefighters. He helped to found the township’s Explorer program, and was a Boy Scout troop leader.

“Paul was a huge asset for the township,” he said. “And not just for the fire department but as a person. He worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He was always on call.”

McKendry started out with the department in 1984, first as a firefighter and medic, then he worked his way up until he became the assistant fire chief, and the first full-time employee for the department.

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Former Fairfield Twp. trustee Tara Downie signed the petition and wished the idea was presented when she was on the board because it would have already been done.

“To me it’s a no-brainer,” she said. “Paul served Fairfield Twp. his entire adult working career.”

And she said it’s a park that really doesn’t have a name as some people call it Morris Road Park and others call it Millikin Road Park. There is no sign indicating a name, but the township recognizes it as Millikin/Morris Road Park.

“Not many people would warrant something being named after them,” Downie said. “There’s no reason why they shouldn’t name the park after Paul.”

Fairfield Twp. Trustee Joe McAbee, who also signed the petition, said he agreed with the idea.

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While trustee President Susan Berding also reminisced about McKendry — calling him “a very dear, sweet man” and also echoed how much he enjoyed working with children — she said the township needs to follow the established naming protocols for property, like parks and buildings, that was set by the board this past May.

The first step is to have a petition with 30 or more township residents’ signatures, which has been done. Now the trustees, according to the naming policy, “shall make an announcement at a public meeting and allow for an opportunity to receive input from appropriate sources, including residents.”

The naming of any property requires a majority vote of the members that are present, but the policy indicates it’s “a guide” and the board has the discretion to consider other options “based on the facts and circumstances surrounding a naming.”

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