Water Tower Park to be renamed in honor of Leon, Shirley Laylin

Published 11:00 am Tuesday, October 26, 2021

DOWAGIAC – As the rest of the city officials stood and applauded his service, one retiring city council member could not help but get emotional.

At his final Dowagiac City Council meeting Monday, Mayor Pro Tempore and Third Ward Councilman Leon Laylin was honored by Mayor Don Lyons and the rest of the city council by enacting a resolution to rename Water Tower Park to Laylin Park. Laylin has chosen not to seek reelection after 24 years on the council.

“All good things must come to an end, and this is no different,” said Mayor Don Lyons, as he introduced the resolution, which honors both Leon and his late wife, Shirley Laylin. “Long before Leon Laylin was elected to the city council … Leon and Shirley were making an impact on our community.”

Leon Laylin, who was born and raised in Dowagiac was elected to city council in 1997. Along with Shirley, he owned and operated Laylin Welding from 1961-2005.

Shirley Laylin was a founding member of the Dowagiac Dogwood Fine Arts Festival, which brought authors such as Kurt Vonnegut, John Updyke and Joyce Carol Oates to the Dowagiac Union School District.

“The Dogwood Festival’s commitment to the arts continues to impact the residents of, and visitors to, the city of Dowagiac through the gift of public art that graces our public spaces,” Lyons said, reading from the proclamation. “Whereas Leon Laylin, while serving as council member and mayor pro tem, tirelessly pursued initiatives that enhanced the quality of life of the citizens of Dowagiac.”

The Laylins’ lifelong home on Helena Street overlooks the current Water Tower Park, and the couple oversaw many changes and improvements to the park. In addition to changing the name to Laylin Park, the city updated the park master plan to include walking trails, enhanced natural vegetation, an additional pavilion for family gatherings and improved playground spaces.

“It is fitting that the new vision for Water Tower Park be commemorated with the name of visionary leaders, who are neighbors to the park,” said Lyons, who also presented Laylin with framed copies of the updated master plan and the proclamation. “It’s been 24 years. It’s been a heck of a ride, but it was a good ride.”

Laylin could not help but get choked up as the rest of the council stood and applauded him.

“I’m emotional,” Laylin said as the weight of the moment overcame him. “Thanks to the Third Ward for the support I’ve had for 24 years. Thank you, Don, for the invitation to come on board. … I really appreciate each one of you here on the council for your support. It’s been a good ride.”

Other council members also spoke to Laylin to express how they felt.

“It’s quite an honor to have a park named after you,” said longest-serving councilmember Bob Schuur, who also has a park named after him.

“Thanks for telling me to speak my mind and treating me like an equal here, I appreciate it,” Councilmember Patrick Bakeman said. “Thank you for your service.”