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Port Orchard Rotary honors Bill Bloomquist, finally

He envisioned it as a simple way to honor one of Port Orchard’s most well-known residents. But it was anything but easy for Wayne Cohen.

The former Port Orchard Rotary president eyed several ways to recognize Bill Bloomquist, whose son, Willie, has enjoyed an 11-year major-league career. That finally came to fruition Saturday when the Port Orchard Rotary, in conjunction with the Kitsap County Parks Department, renamed the home of the South Kitsap Girls Softball Association as Bill Bloomquist Rotary Park.

The fields recently underwent renovations to the two playing fields and upgrades to the fences, gates and parking lot. Cohen said he is hopeful that further upgrades can be made when the economy improves.

Cohen, who still is a Rotarian, said the project to honor Bloomquist, a longtime dentist in the area who broke two vertebrae in his neck in a car accident in October 2002 on a hunting trip in Wyoming was a long time coming. After surgery, he suffered a heart attack and slipped into a coma, which he later came out of, but suffered permanent memory loss and now resides in assisted living.

“I felt it was very important to recognize people while they still were on the face of the earth,” Cohen said. “I tried to honor people who were ill while I was president.”

Bloomquist was a member of the Port Orchard Rotary, but Cohen joined about the same time as the accident occurred. Despite that, Cohen said he was familiar with Bloomquist’s work in the community and wanted to find a way to honor him.

It started in 2007 when with a plan to dedicate a garden to Bloomquist at Howe Farm in South Kitsap. But he said that was scuttled when Cohen said that area became “more of a dog park.”

Two years ago, Cohen gained approval to landscape a 150-by-45-foot section of Central Park, which is situated between DeKalb Street and Dwight Street in downtown Port Orchard, in an undetermined section of the 1.34-acre park.

Cohen said that plan was derailed because of concerns that there would not be enough people to maintain the garden.

He then met with Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido about dedicating Port Orchard Rotary Park, which is located on Madrona Drive, to Bloomquist. Cohen said the location made sense because it once had been really active before falling into disrepair. But waiting to gain approval from the county, which he said took 18 months, was frustrating. Cohen said he was thankful for the support of fellow Rotarian Steve Hutchins.

“He picked up my chin every time there was a problem,” he said.

Even through the challenges, Cohen is undeterred when it comes to honoring influential elders in South Kitsap. He said it is important to recognize their contributions even as “we’re changing.”

 

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