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Published: Wednesday, 6/18/2008

Tribute proposed for a founder of Olander parks


Trustees of the Olander Park System will be asked Monday to name the administration building after the late John Callahan, an attorney who was one of the founders of the system.

Mr. Callahan died June 8, three days after the 50th anniversary of the founding of the board that has become the Olander system.

Known most widely as one of the community's leading lawyers, Mr. Callahan, 86, was known to a smaller group as the founder and a continuing contributor to the park system.

"He was like your favorite grandfather, always there to tell you what could be better, and just as easily tell you what he saw as right. Happily he found a lot of things right," according to Gary Madrzykowski, director of the system.

He said he had seen Mr. Callahan just about two weeks before his death, as the retired attorney walked the trail around the 23-acre lake like he did two to three times a week.

Mr. Madrzykowski said it may be that 95 percent of the people in the community can't recall a time when Olander wasn't there. Of its existence, he said there's never been a better-spent $9,000.

The ground had been used as a borrow pit to take dirt for the construction of U.S. 23 overpasses. Its owner, C.S. Groves Construction, of Minneapolis, wanted to get rid of the property while the park board, which at the time only oversaw Whetstone Park, wanted to buy it.

Mr. Callahan recalled not long ago that the board was able to scrape $9,000 together and the company made a gift of the additional $16,000 to make up its asking price.

More time and work went into getting the property fenced, constructing the path, and putting in some benches.

Catherine Frye and Milton Olander were the other two commission members at the time.

Mr. Olander died before the park opened and the two other commissioners named it in his memory.

The park itself had its 45th anniversary five years ago, and trustees wanted to name the administration building after Mr. Callahan at that time.

He declined then, but Mr. Madrzykowski said it is now time to dedicate the building in his name as a tribute to his work and to the future of the park he always called his baby.

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