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Democrat Photo by Susan Monteleone

PICTURED ABOVE ARE some of the friends and family members who turned out for last Saturday’s dedication ceremony of the Kenneth Bjorn Recreation Center. Standing from left to right are Nancy Lynch, Dick Kellogg, Randy Yeomans, Lisa Bjorn Yeomans (daughter), Linda Bjorn (wife), Charlie Donnelly (rec. center organizer) and Al Wojtasek (ECS Athletic Director.) Kneeling from left to right are grandchildren Brett Yeomans, Brianna Yeomans and Jacob Yeomans.

In Memory Of
'A Great Man'

By Susan Monteleone
ELDRED — December 14, 2001 – At the appointed hour last Saturday afternoon, Charlie Donnelly took his place at the podium and began speaking to the scores of people sitting in front of him in the Eldred Central School gymnasium.
“What we are doing here today by honoring such a great man, Ken would not like,” said Donnelly, the main person behind the many hours of dedication involved in designing and creating the new Kenneth Bjorn Recreation Center at Eldred Central School. “He would not like all the hoopla and commotion with the dedication of the recreation center here today but, he would like seeing the kids of the community using the center.”
Over a year ago, Donnelly set out on a mission to build a recreation center in honor of his best friend, Ken Bjorn. Donnelly wanted to posthumously honor the man who was such a big influence on the school system at Eldred.
“Ken Bjorn formed many students and players into great kids . . . Coach Bjorn was the only coach I ever took any advice from,” Donnelly said. “When I first came here, I tagged along behind him everywhere he went and he never said a word. He knew his stuff and he would never brag about it. Ken Bjorn was a teacher; he taught every grade level and the faculty room a meeting room when he was there. There was always laughter and sometimes you might even find him asleep on the couch.
Ken Bjorn was also a Coach. He never knew what his record was and all he would ever say is, in the last seven years, we lost a few games here and there. He was also the one responsible for bringing golf to Eldred.
Finally, Ken was a friend. He will stay with me forever and I miss him a lot and I miss not being able to talk to him. Ken rarely gave advice but when he did, it paid to listen, he was a special guy,” a tearful Donnelly concluded.
Also speaking at the dedication ceremony was Eldred Athletic Director Al Wojtasek.
“When I came here 30 years ago, the first two men I met were Bob “Coach” Werneke and Ken Bjorn and they both told me I came to a great district,” Wojtasek said. “These two men showed me the joy of working with young kids and young athletes. They showed me professionalism and their love for the community.
“Ken Bjorn pushed the fact of do not take yourself serious and do it always for the kids. Having the Kenneth Bjorn Recreation Center right next to the Bob “Coach” Werneke gym is very appropriate. I know that he is up in heaven looking down and saying ‘Charlie, it is for the kids.’”
Eldred Central School Superintendent Candace Mazur also spoke in regards to Bjorn.
“I did not know Ken but I feel like I have known him for a long time with all the wonderful stories and statements I have always heard about him and I wish I really could have known him,” Mazur said. “Charlie Donnelly deserves a lot of credit for the formation of the outside recreation center. He was passionate and committed and, to Charlie, Ken Bjorn must have been a great and special friend.”
In closing Ken Bjorn’s wife, Linda, got up and spoke.
“What a wonderful Christmas gift to our family and to the community and children,” she said. “My family is so happy to be here to see this today. My daughter , my sister and our aunts are here and my son, Erik, and his wife Kim, who live in Tacoma, Washington are with us here today to in spirit. On behalf of our family , I want to thank the community, the people and businesses that donated funds or their time, the school board , Superintendent Mazur and everyone else – especially Charlie Donnelly, who without his dedication and friendship, we would not be here today. Thank you Charlie and truthfully, I know Ken is looking down and saying ‘You’re right, I do not like the attention but it is for the kids.’”
Before the crowd of over 100 people went out to view the new recreation center, Donnelly once again said thank you.
“Thank you to everyone who helped us,” he said. “To the people who went by and blew their horns in support, to the people just saying hi. No action was ever to small.”
Donnelly said that the Willis Family donated the basketball equipment and that Melissa Willis is continuing to help raise funds for the tennis courts to be installed in the spring. He also noted that Troy Green, J.P. Gunther and Mr. [Raymond] Lizzi “were a valuable strong force in our team.”
“Thank you and thank you to everyone who helped from digging holes to beeping horns, thank you,” Donnelly said.
After the formal dedication, the crowd walked outside to the new Kenneth Bjorn Recreation Center. At the Center, which consists of a basketball court with four baskets and a golf driving cage, enclosed with a wooden fence, Linda Bjorn cut the red ribbon to officially open the center. A sign bearing Ken Bjorn’s name is placed right near the site.
In the spring, phase two of the recreation center project will be completed. That will include the installation of two tennis courts and batting cages next to the basketball courts.

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