When I heard Bob Callis, a man who gave the community of Davison his all, had passed away Tuesday morning, I knew I wanted to write something about him in my column.
I try to keep my space here as general to all readers throughout Genesee County so it appeals to everyone, so I had to ask myself if my thoughts about Bob Callis would resonate further than Davison. I decided his story is one that could be told anywhere and would have meaning to everyone, because Bob simply cared about the town he lived in — something I think most readers can relate to.
If you don’t know who Bob Callis was, I’ll explain. Bob has long been a supporter of great causes in the Davison community and most recently he led the charge to obtain 40 acres of property adjacent to the Jack Abernathy Regional Park to expand the park’s services with more trails, recreational facilities and space.
He did this by organizing an annual 5k walk and run which was most recently known as the Parcel for the Park race. Bob put the race together every year for four years and the proceeds went into a fund to buy the property located west of the existing regional park.
Even if it was raining and cold, the race went on and Bob was there leading his volunteer army in seeing that race through to the end. Every year he made a little more money for his cause and he looked forward to the next year.
There were times when Bob, who was 80, wondered if he would ever see his dream come to fruition. He’d battled cancer off and on for more than 25 years and he knew time was not necessarily on his side. But he never let it get him down (at least not publicly) and he never gave up. Two years ago I remember showing up to the race on a cold and wet spring morning and I was greeted by Bob who was busy directing his volunteers throughout the park. When he saw me I remember he had this twinkle in his eyes. He was giddy with happiness and nearly ready to jump for joy.
He took me aside and like a kid with a secret they were dying to tell, Bob spilled the beans: “After the race we’re going to announce we have the money to buy the land! Keep it to yourself until then.”
In a deal made with Davison Township, they helped him get the remaining money he needed for the project, through grants and other assistance, and the plans for a new park adjacent to the city’s Jack Abernathy Regional park were made.
Last fall when the township held an unveiling of the plans and honored Bob and his wife, Geraldine, I could see Bob’s illness was getting the upper hand on him. For me it was the last time I saw him in person.
When the ground breaking for what is to be called Lake Callis was held last month, the photos one of my staff brought back from the event showed Bob looking frail — but there was still that gleam in his eye as he operated the bulldozer to clear the first dirt moved on the project.
I wanted to go visit Bob in his final days, but I decided not to. Having watched my mother succumb to cancer, I wanted to remember Bob as he was the night he was honored for his work. His efforts and his vision for the park will continue to be an asset to the community for years to come. firstname.lastname@example.org