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Published: 6/13/2007

Memories help pave Pilliod Park walkway

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Blade staff writer Janet Romaker grew up near Swanton. She wrote the following first-person column to give Neighbors West readers a homespun perspective.

SWANTON - Along a memorial pathway in Swanton's Pilliod Park, the bricks talk to me.

They tell me stories. They remind me of my past and refresh recent memories.

Here, there's a brick with the name of my family's dentist when I was growing up in the Swanton area - good ol' Doc Bowman.

I can hear a booming voice behind a white mask and hairy fingers holding shiny tools (OK, yes, it was a long time ago - before dentists tugged on latex gloves to poke my pearlies).

Formally, he was known as Dr. Robert Bowman.

He was good friends with John Syx, former Swanton village administrator; Mr. Syx bought the brick from the local Rotary Club to honor Dr. Bowman. I'm glad he did.

Over there, there's a brick printed with "Sadowski's Produce."

The Sadowski family sells flowers and fresh produce this time of the year along busy Airport Highway.

In the fall, they sell the best pumpkins around, bright orange with stems firmly attached for jack-o-lantern caps.

Years ago, the Sadowskis sold eggs. Lots and lots of eggs. I was a very lucky child. I spent time in the summers at the Sadowski home because that's where one of my best friends lived - Betty Jo.

She went on to become a well-known teacher in the Swanton school district; I do this for a living (and about those eggs - I thought it was the grandest thing, to gather eggs from the chickens. On my family's farm, we raised turkeys, but they didn't lay eggs).

"In Memory of Lewis Taylor" reads another brick. He was an "upperclassman" when my mom, then Barbara Russell, was in high school in Swanton. The village's longtime fire chief, Mr. Taylor was in charge of the Swanton fireworks for more than 50 years. I cried at his funeral.

There's a brick inscribed with Bill & Ellen Poca, family friends since the days when I called Swanton Township home. Grainy black-and-white home movies and photographs show the Poca and Romaker clans happily spending time together ice skating at a local pond, swimming at Wampler's Lake.

Dick and Nordie Slawinski's names are printed on one of the many bricks that grace Pilliod Park, nestled along Chestnut Street near the library and municipal hall.

Mr. Slawinski, past president of the Rotary Club, was the long-time bowling proprietor of KC Lanes in Swanton.

I've known him for years, in part because he served the best pizza burgers in town when I did a six-month stint as editor of the Swanton Enterprise. Lunch break was spent at the bowling alley, talking with Mr. Slawinski about council meetings, school activities, etc.

On a recent sunny morning, as the sun dried the morning dew on the grass in the well-tended park, Mr. Slawinski watched Rotary Club members install several more memorial bricks along the pathway.

He and other Rotarians say the pathway is like a history class, filled with names of people who have played roles - big and small - in making Swanton what it is today.

Since 2001, the Rotary Club of Swanton has sold hundreds of memorial bricks, and the pathway beautification project is drawing to a close.

Only about 65 bricks remain for purchase, Mr. Slawinski said.

The Pilliod name has been part of the community for many years, and the family name is memorialized on bricks along the walkway in Pilliod Park.

On this day, Bill Pilliod and his fiancee Cami Waller are coaxing their favorite dog Mutley, perky in a pink bandana, onto the walkway as the cocker spaniel's brick is installed.

Mutley's brick features two hearts and two paw prints. Mutley walks in the park every day, said Mr. Pilliod.

You can learn more about the town, and its people - Belingers, McQuades, Carsons - by reading inscriptions on other bricks.

Kody K, for example, loved to walk in Pilliod Park.

BGSU Falcons, the 180th Fighter Wing, the Swanton High School Class of 1947, Swanton Police Chief Homer Chapa, and Buckeye Bob Onweller are among those honored on bricks in the park.

The late Mr. Onweller is remembered for carrying around buckeyes in his pockets. He would hand them out to people, the Rotarians said.

Mr. Chapa, a former Rotary president, and Mr. Slawinski have information available for anyone who wants to purchase memorial bricks.

Cost is $25.

"When people walk through the park, you see them stopping on the walkway to read the names," said Raymond Walter, public service director for Swanton.

"There are a lot of memories along here."

One brick is inscribed with "We Love Our Grami & Pa."

And on a brick near the gazebo, a special message: "Follow Your Dreams."

Contact Janet Romaker at:

jromaker@theblade.com or

419-724-6006.



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