At the age of 79, John Lipinski of Boardman died of a heart attack while on the walking trail at Mill Creek Park on June 5, 2012.
But at least he was in good company. Lipinski was surrounded by a core group of fellow walkers when he suddenly dropped to the ground.
The core group consists of seven men and one woman, but there is another group of four or five walkers that also join them. They are all retired and age in range from their 60s to one member who is 82.
Within days of his death, that core group of walkers decided they wanted to honor Lipinski in some way. Because of his love for the outdoors in general and Mill Creek Park in particular, they decided to raise money to purchase a bench along the walking trail in his memory.
Frank Nolasco, who walked with Lipinski for 11 years, said the John Lipinski Memorial Committee found out a memorial bench would cost $1,200. They got donations from fellow walkers, relatives and friends.
“We raised that money and more within 30 days,” Nolasco said.
Nolasco said the group had trouble at first finding a spot to put the bench because park officials said all the spaces were filled along the walking trail. But they eventually found a spot 100 yards from the north entrance of the corner of Shields Road and East Golf Drive in Boardman.
The bench took six months to make and it was installed in the spring.
A formal dedication ceremony was held Saturday and included a blessing and prayers led by Fr. Joseph Rudjak, pastor of Holy Apostles Parish in Youngstown, who gave a benediction in Polish and lead those present in Polish hymns. Lipinski was a member of St. Stanislaus Parish in Youngstown.
“”He loved this park and we felt this was a great way to honor his memory. We are glad to be a part of it,” Nolasco said. “He spent his last moments here in the park. As far as we’re concerned he’s with us here in the manner of the bench.”
Nolasco said the committee had money left over after purchasing the memorial bench, so they also bought children’s books for the Mill Creek MetroParks library and several trees that will be planted near the Davis Center.
The treated wood bench can seat four people and has a nameplate engraved with “In Loving Memory of John Lipinski.” It will join the other dozen or so benches along the trail that also have been dedicated in memory of loved ones.
“We enjoyed his friends. They were very supportive when John passed away,” said Lipinski’s wife Marian Lipinski. “I thank them with all of our hearts.”
When Lipinski died, family members asked for donations to be made to Mill Creek Park.
According to his obituary, Lipinski was born in Europe, immigrating to Youngstown in 1950 and serving in the U.S. Army for two years. He worked as a machine operator and foreman for Amex Dies and retired in 1997.
Nolasco said he believes Lipinski started walking at the park soon after retirement because Nolasco started walking in 2001 and he said Lipinski had been “at it for a a few years.”