Opening ceremony for Flight For Life Mahany Heroes Park honors local hero
Crystal, Ryan and Karen Mahany all walked hand-in-hand as they began on the path toward the reflection area of the new Flight For Life Mahany Heroes Park in Frisco. They were followed by members of the park committee, Matt Bowe and finally by Dave Repsher and his wife Amanda Soychak.
At the end of the path, overlooking Lake Dillon, is a bronze plaque with a short inscription written by Ryan Mahany, a Bible verse, and a likeness of Patrick Mahany in front of an American flag.
The opening of the park on Saturday, Oct. 8, was the first time Patrick Mahany’s family got to see the plaque.
At 10 a.m. the opening ceremony for the park began. The emotion of the area was palpable as attendees gave each other warm hugs or wiped tears from their eyes. Paul Chodkowski, the CEO of St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, began by saying the “community support for this park has been overwhelming.”
He went on to say that the park was one way to thank the hospital staff, first responders and rescue service members for their heroic efforts on July 3 when the Flight For Life helicopter crashed in the parking lot of the Summit Medical Center.
“This park is a symbol of that selfless dedication, and will provide a healing space for all who visit,” Chodkowski said. “We look forward to the days when our patients, staff, friends can wander through this park and find solace in the beauty of their surroundings.”
Julie Kelble, the chair of the park committee, spoke and explained the many pieces of symbolism throughout the park. As Chodkowski introduced her, he mentioned that the committee had been given the Jerry James Volunteer of the Year Award.
Kelble said that it was important to the committee that everyone had the chance to donate to the park as a healing place. After thanking a few volunteers, she joked that if she read the whole list it would take until midnight.
Kelble read the names of the 15 people who were working on the day of the crash to get pilot Patrick Mahany and crew members Bowe and Repsher away from the resulting fire. In the park there are 15 aspen trees planted in their honor.
“I am forever grateful, and ridiculously proud of what this team of people accomplished. You are all amazing to me,” Kelble said.
She called the park a true labor of love.
Karen Mahany reflected on the past 15 months since her husband’s death and said that due to grief she had not been ready to honor and celebrate Patrick Mahany’s life. She said that moments of quiet with her family finally allowed her to take that step.
“In those moments when I started to be able to hear what Patrick would say, Patrick was telling me … ‘Honey, I’m going to be really, really mad at you if you get to heaven and you haven’t lived your life to the fullest, just like I did,’” she said.
She then gave Kelble a framed copy of “The Man in the Arena” by Theodore Roosevelt, saying that Kelble has been her personal flotation device since the crash.
She said that because of Kelble’s efforts, and the efforts of the rest of the team that was working to resuscitate Patrick Mahany after the crash, she was able to speak to him before he passed.
“Against all odds, that team was able to bring him back long enough so that I could tell him everything that I wanted to tell him, so I have not had to worry that there was something that I did not get to tell him,” Karen Mahany said.
Ryan Mahany and his wife Crystal also gave Kelble a gift. While Ryan Mahany was deployed in Afghanistan he flew an American flag from his helicopter. They gave that flag to Kelble in a frame with an inscription.
Ryan Mahany spoke about his “old man,” and said that originally he had only asked for a plaque. He added that the park had transformed the area of the crash and that it was no longer a tragic place.
“All the love, all the work, dedication, it has truly transformed this place into something special,” he said.
He added that he has only ever really defied his father once. When Ryan Mahany began flying for the Army, Patrick Mahany told his son not to carry photos of people so they would not be with him in case he died. Patrick Mahany followed that policy himself. But Ryan Mahany said that since the crash he has begun to carry a picture of his father with him.
He also carries a prayer book that Patrick Mahany gave him. Patrick Mahany carried it with him when he was in Vietnam, and Ryan Mahany’s grandfather had it before that, during World War II.
“I think it says a lot about a community and a lot about a people that will honor those who gave their life in service to another. We do it in the military, and the fact that this community came together and did this for my father, it means a lot,” Ryan Mahany said.
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