“Maybe gone, but never forgotten”; Family of Leon and Marilyn Kowalski dedicate bench, tree along Klingner Trail


by Karen Allen

On the morning of Saturday, June 26, family and friends were given the opportunity to gather to reflect and share memories of the lives of Leon & Marilyn Kowalski.  Their family hosted a special dedication and blessing of a memorial bench and tree planting in honor of their parents.  

All in attendance for the memorial dedication said they were thankful and blessed for the opportunity to come together and celebrate Leon & Marilyn since they, like many others, were prevented from having any public celebrations over the past 15 months due to the covid pandemic. Finally, this past Saturday, the Kowalski Family saw their wish to bring people together for a celebration/memorial dedication come true.

I’m one of Leon & Marilyn’s four children along with my sisters Cynthia and Chris and my brother Gary. We coordinated with the Quincy Park District to have a memorial bench and plate constructed this past April. The bench is along the “Bill Klingner Trail” in Quincy and is located just north of the Illinois Veteran’s Home and east of Sunset Cemetery.   In addition to the park bench, the Kowalski Family asked the Park District to plant four Heritage Program sapling trees (a Bur Oak, a Sugar Maple, a Dogwood, and a Plum) in loving memory of their parents in an area just north of the bench site.  The setting of the bench and trees is surrounded by numerous beautiful flowers and plants, and overlooks a portion of the Cedar Creek valley.  Hundreds of people pass along this Trail and area daily and the Kowalski Family is grateful that it will be recognized and used for years to come.

For the special event, the memorial bench and trees were blessed by Father Don Blickhan, the retired pastor for The Illinois Veterans Home.  In attendance for the special event were several former City of Quincy colleagues, neighbors, personal friends, acquaintances, and members of the Kowalski Family.  The Kowalski Family was also grateful to the O’Donnell-Cookson Celebration Home for helping with the coordination of the dedication event.

Leon, the long-time director of public works for the City of Quincy, was very fond of trees, especially in Quincy.  Leon, who was an advocate for “Tree City,” was extremely proud that Quincy was recognized as a “Tree City” community for the past 30 years during his tenure with the City of Quincy.  Leon really loved trees, and was a proud member of the Arbor Day Foundation for many years. And Marilyn, who was passionate about flowers and floral arrangements, would have been in awe of the views surrounding the bench and trees.

Leon graduated from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana obtained a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering.  His professional career started at the Illinois Department of Public Works (later known as IDOT).  He also worked as a contractor building the interstate system across Central Illinois.  After building a portion of I-72 around Decatur, IL, he then joined Homer L. Chastain, a civil engineering consultant firm from Decatur, IL, and was given the opportunity to work on I-172 Quincy Bypass.  After completing the Quincy Bypass project, he fell in love with the Quincy area and decided to stay, becoming the Public Works Director for the City of Quincy where he finished out his public service career of over 25 years and retired in 1998. 

Marilyn, who graduated from Immaculata High School (Chicago), attended Wright Junior College (Chicago), John Wood Community College and Quincy College.  In addition to raising her four children and being a homemaker, she began her professional career with the IBM Corporation in the Midwest Regional Office of Chicago. Then after moving to Quincy in 1976 with Leon and their children, she worked for Manpower Employment Agency of Quincy.  And in subsequent years, she served as administrative assistant for the Direct of Continuing Education at Quincy College, and then before retiring in 1999, she served as administrative assistant for the Quincy Art Center.

The family treasured the dedication for their parents’ legacy and were happy to know that the memorial bench will serve as a beautiful resting point along the Bill Klingner Trail, and equally happy that the trees will continue to promote “Tree City” for the community and support for the Quincy Park District.

They may be gone, but they will never be forgotten.

Leon and Marilyn Kowalski

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