From MyBayCity.com | By: David Rogers
It was an event that featured remarks by 91-year-old Donald J. Carlyon, retired president of Delta College and library trustee, whose vision for the park was being fulfilled right there in front of the Jack and Alice Wirt Library.
City Manager Rick Finn recalled that it was Carlyon, a veteran of three branches of the service, who sparked the restoration to rekindle the pride of a community after the park had virtually been subsumed when the library was built in 2004.
Mr. Finn noted the highly effective cooperation between the City of Bay City, County of Bay and Bay County Library System, coordinated by the Bay Veterans Foundation (BVF), that achieved the restoration in a very short time. The $125,000 project was financed by private donations.
Mr. Freiwald, of Freiwald-Staudacher Design, Saginaw, designed the historical kiosk, built by Delta College students under Dave Bledsoe, retired construction management director at the college, now gracing the southwest quadrant of the park. The kiosk approximates the 19th-century guard shack that was used for traffic control in the 1880s when Pere Marquette railroad trains steamed across Center Avenue to the nearby depot. The restored prairie-style depot is now home to the Bay Area Community Foundation, a wellspring of educational improvement.
Library System director Trish Burns, Jerry Somalski of Bay Landscaping, Mike Finelli of Delta College and Paul Begick of Begick Nursery also contributed to the planning of the restoration.
Other park development was by Darwin Baranski, director of city parks; the Bay city Department of Public Works, and Bay City Power & Light. The Bay County Road Commission and Dobson Industrial Van Haaren division expertise accomplished the heavy lifting of the guard shack/kiosk and the cannons were transported by employees of Bay Cast Inc.
The Hartford cannon’s concrete pad was given a historical look by Jeff Switala of Bay County buildings and grounds, Nelson Niederer constructed a historically accurate wood platform and carriage for the 13 inch Seacoast Mortar.
Dr. Tim Eckstein, a Bay City resident, retired Navy captain and director of occupational medicine at Covenant Health Care, had made careful arrangements as chairman of the momentous ceremony. Dr. Eckstein is a board member of the BVF.
It was a reprise of a historical event of 109 years ago when Bay City area Member of Congress George A. Loud of Oscoda addressed veterans of the Civil War and Spanish-American War in a stirring tribute to their service.
The grizzled veterans of that epic internecine struggle, the Civil War, that had occurred 50 years earlier no doubt never forgot the ceremony in the heart of Bay City where surrounded by townsfolk who honored them, they saluted their flag, the Stars, and Stripes that fluttered all about.
That event, June 12, 1907, was held to celebrate the placement of four cannon, symbols of the terrible ways of war, two that had originally defended Fort Sumter, the federal citadel that fell to Confederate guns in 1861 at the start of the Civil War, and two that had an opposite outcome as instruments of Union maritime victories in New Orleans and Mobile Bay on Admiral David Farragut’s flagship, USS Hartford.
Replica cannon produced by Bay Cast, Inc., that now defend the park as in days of yore, are symbolic of the industry and technology inherent in Bay City. The cannons stand guard over the park now, much as those actual cannons of the Civil War stood when the magnificent enterprises that served the lumber industry thrived here.
Soon the jet black replica cannons will be supplemented by piles of 50-pound cannon balls also crafted by Bay Cast, Inc., headed by Max and Scott Holman. The Holmans also are donating a stack of cannon balls to Pine Ridge Cemetery to arm the 1863 siege gun that guards the 150 graves of Civil War veterans in Soldier’s Rest where a Grand Army of the Republic spire of the 1880s towers over the headstones.
This time, the honored visitor was Col. Roger Donlon, 82, first Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War and honorary chairman of the Bay Veterans Foundation which had overseen the park restoration under the leadership of retired hospital foundation director Keith Markstrom, himself a Vietnam veteran.
Col. Donlon recalled the service that bloody day of 5 July 1964 at Nam Dong when he and a dozen American army advisors, 311 South Vietnamese soldiers and 40 ethnic Chinese Nung fought off about 900 Viet Cong in a five-hour battle that began in the early morning hours.
“We faced a superior force but we overcame those odds because what was in our hearts was the spirit of being a proud American fighting man. That spirit came from the hometowns of every man on the team, small towns and big cities across America, that spirit rejuvenated and re-energized by such gatherings in their hometowns.”
Although wounded four times, Donlon continued to lead his small team and their allies to victory. Ultimately they were lifted from the combat hellhole by helicopter. He soon ended up at the White House where President Lyndon Johnson draped the laurels of the coveted Medal of Honor, America’s highest military honor, around his neck.
Now he was paying his second visit to Bay City and the area in as many years to personally help local teachers learn to use the Medal of Honor Character Development curriculum promoted by the National Medal of Honor Foundation. Donlon has dedicated his life to the project and travels continually in its interest to address what he calls “the dire straits America now is in.”
Col. Donlon in measured tones drew comparisons between the patriotic spirit of Bay City with his hometown of Saugerties, New York, on the Hudson River, dating to Revolutionary War days. He noted the symbolism and significance of the young Bay City boys and girls who had planted flags around the garden area gracing the park, “this fertile ground you know as home.”
“Now it’s our charge and our responsibility to keep that spirit alive so that when they become proud and productive citizens as you are, sitting in those same chairs in this same park, they will be respected and honored in a way that you are today.”
“For me — a visitor — this is a very special moment for me and I’m very grateful to share this day with you,” Col. Donlon said.
Trumpeters Freiwald, John Rickert, David Selley and Joel Wiseman, who also played the National Anthem, delivered the undying military anthems “Semper Paratus,” “the Caisson Song,” “Anchors Aweigh,” “Wild Blue Yonder” and the “Halls of Montezuma.”
Douglas Szczepanski, who had delivered the invocation, also provided the benediction; the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War fired a rifle volley, the trumpet quartet played the haunting “Taps,” and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War retired the colors.
The event wound down with the trumpet quartet playing “The Washington Post March,” “Bugler’s Holiday,” and “My Country Tis of Thee,” their dulcet tones drifting across the library lawn — a perfect conclusion to a memorable day in Bay City’s storied history.