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Pirrotta Park: Spicer to rename downtown park

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Carolyn Lange / Tribune Connie Filley, from left, Tomi Pirrotta, Ruth Trageser, Val Sechler, Sandy Saulsbury and Mary Wohnoutka gather at Wildcat Cove at the Spicer Downtown Park. It was one of the projects community volunteer Ed Pirrotta helped lead to improve the park, which is being renamed "Pirrotta Park" in his honor. Pirrotta died in 2013.2 / 3
Carolyn Lange / Tribune Connie Filley, from left, Mary Wohnoutka, Tomi Pirrotta, Val Sechler, Ruth Trageser and Sandy Saulsbury stand at the spot where an archway memorial will be placed renaming the Spicer Downtown Park to Pirrotta Park, in honor of Ed Pirrotta who led many community volunteer projects to improve the park.3 / 3

SPICER — Ed Pirrotta was the kind of man who could see the skills and good intentions in a person and help coax those gifts out in ways that will live on in the Spicer city park for years.

Under his leadership, Pirrotta shepherded nearly 1,000 volunteers to build the massive Wildcat Cove playground at the Spicer downtown park during a seven-day period — three shifts a day — back in 2007.

Pirrotta was there for every shift.

That was followed by Pirrotta leading volunteers to construct a gazebo in 2008 and the Lion's picnic shelter in 2010. He helped direct construction of a deck at the park overlooking Green Lake in 2012 — while battling cancer — until he became too ill to continue.

"He had the ability to reach out to everyone and make everyone feel so important and their work was so important," said Mary Wohnoutka, a member of the Spicer beautification committee.

The projects at the park are "wonderful things for our community and he helped everyone come together and work," Wohnoutka said.

Now, the city of Spicer is honoring Pirrotta, who died in 2013 of complications from cancer, by naming the popular picnic and play area "Pirrotta Park."

The action was blessed last month by the Spicer City Council and now a team of community volunteers are putting the final touches on plans to erect a brick and stainless steel archway at the park that will bear the new name.

"Without Ed Pirrotta's leadership, the downtown park would not be the community showcase it is today," states the written proposal that was presented to the city council from the Spicer Beautification Committee.

"He was a very visible volunteer for the city of Spicer," said City Administrator Leslie Valiant. "He was a big supporter of all the things that happened in the downtown park."

Honed through years of teaching the carpentry program at Ridgewater College in Willmar, Pirrotta was a natural educator and leader, said his wife, Tomi Pirrotta.

"He was always happy. He was always humble. And he was always helpful," said Tomi Pirrotta, adding there wasn't anything her husband couldn't do. And everything he did, he did well, whether it was drawing cartoons, playing sports with his kids or dancing with her.

But where he really shined was pulling volunteers together in projects to improve their community.

"He seemed to assess a volunteer's skill level and he would find the job that exactly fit that person's skill level," said Ruth Trageser, another member of the beautification committee. "And then he would encourage and praise that person, which I think is a very unique ability."

The projects he worked on extended far beyond the Spicer park.

Pirrotta also played a volunteer role in improvement projects at the Little Crow Golf Course, Green Lake Bible Camp, the Spicer war memorial, the Flags of Honor in Willmar, the Taunton ball field complex in Willmar and repairing homes for people in need.

"There's no end to what he did and what he gave back," Wohnoutka said.

"He was never in it for himself," Trageser said.

Leading by example, Pirrotta showed how important it is to volunteer in your community, said Sandy Saulsbury.

Although not everyone "can be an Ed," Saulsbury said everyone can be a volunteer and play a role in the process.

In light of the broad impact Pirrotta had on individuals and the passion he had for the community, Spicer residents are "very happy" the park — which has been known as Lion's Park or simply the Downtown Park — will be named Pirrotta Park, said committee member Connie Filley.

Because he never wanted to be the center of attention or take credit for projects where he was surrounded by many hard-working volunteers who were cutting boards and pounding nails, Tomi Pirrotta said her husband probably would have objected to having the park bear his name.

But she said "too many people loved him" not to make this happen. "My family is very honored."

A celebration to unveil the arch and rename the park is set for Aug. 20.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750