City OKs naming park after Weicht

• Former Elk River Lion was key figure in getting Boys and Girls Club, Lion’s Park Center built

 

by Paul Rignell

Contributing Writer

The Elk River City Council voted July 7 to rename Lions Park in memory of one special Elk River Lions volunteer who also built the park building.

John Weicht, who was born in Litchfield, Minnesota but moved to Elk River at age 6 weeks, became a proud resident of this community through his youth and adulthood. He left the area briefly to represent his country during wartime in Vietnam, and on his return he continued to grow a construction business. In 1999 he donated services along with other area contractors to build the Elk River Boys and Girls Club center on Sixth Street Northwest.

John Weicht on a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

John Weicht on a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

He was also instrumental in the construction of Lions Park Center, 1104 Lions Park Dr., on the other side of the park.

Weicht’s fellow Lions in Elk River had intended to rename the Lions Park in his honor for more than two years. The club members voted for the change at a time when Weicht was suffering illness in early 2012; he died that May at age 64.

His survivors include his wife, Sandy. They were married more than 40 years after having met when John’s company was building a rutabaga warehouse in Askov, Minnesota.

John and Sandy had a son, Willy, and daughter-in-law, Michelle, and they live in Elk River, and the Weichts also had a daughter, Heidi, and son-in-law, Wes, living in Baudette, Minnesota.

John’s survivors also include five grandchildren, now ranging in age from 3 to 9.

Special dedication will be planned in future

Willy Weicht told the Star News that Sandy was out of town when the City Council took its vote this week but that the family soon will work with the Lions Club to arrange a special program or park dedication at the newly renamed Lion John Weicht Park. Willy joined his father’s construction business, and together they built the Lions Park Center.

John Weicht at an awards night program for the Elk River Lions.

John Weicht at an awards night program for the Elk River Lions.

John served with the club for 29 years. He had executive roles, serving as a past president and treasurer, and his fellow club members honored him twice with Lion of the Year awards and the Melvin Jones Fellowship that is named for the founder of Lions Clubs International.

Willy is honoring his father’s legacy directly in a number of ways.

As Willy had supported the Lions Club and its activities through his youth, John Weicht turned to his son when Willy reached adulthood to let him know it was time for him to apply for club membership.

Willy joined the club in 2000 and he, too, is a past president of the Elk River group and currently serving as club treasurer.

“My dad taught me the value of volunteering at a young age and how helping other people can fill your heart with joy,” Willy said. “This is the main reason as to why I am a Lion today and will be for many years.”

Favorite club memories for Willy alongside his father will include flipping and serving pancakes at breakfasts throughout the year, plus working in the Lions food booth (built by John) at the Sherburne County Fair and running a “two-headed car” in the county fair parade.

John Weicht out at a Lions car show at the Sherburne County Fairgrounds.

John Weicht out at a Lions car show at the Sherburne County Fairgrounds.

City Council Member Paul Motin introduced the motion July 7 for the council to approve the new name of Lion John Weicht Park.

Motin explained that normally he would not support the naming of parks for local contributors as opposed to people with more regional or national significance. However, he said he was glad to recognize the work of the Elk River Lions and their member John Weicht with this decision.

The motion passed unanimously.

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