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Gainesville City Council considering petition to rename park for ex-fire chief
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Tracy Foutz on Friday sketches the Gainesville-Midland 209 locomotive. The Cairo resident and train fan was in town to attend an art workshop and said she looks for trains to draw when she travels. - photo by NAT GURLEY

When Dick Taylor died in February at age 65, longtime friends and colleagues noted his extensive history serving the public, from his years as fire chief for both Gainesville and Hall County to earlier Navy days.

One friend wants to honor Taylor in a way that aligns with his other passion — trains.

“Aside from being a very notable fire chief, he loved his trains,” 23-year-old Stirling Callahan said.

Callahan has submitted a petition to the Gainesville City Council to rename the Gainesville Engine 209 Park the Dick Taylor Railroad Park.

“When Dick passed away back in February, I really thought it would be a good tribute,” said Callahan, a student at Lanier Technical College. “He had been so involved in it.”

“He probably loved firefighting as much as trains,” he added.

A fellow train enthusiast, Callahan said they became fast friends when they met in the past year.

The two would frequent the train depot, and one day, a former teacher introduced them.

“He introduced us, and we talked train stories, models of trains, and just kind of went from there,” Callahan said. “We’d go to train shows and do a lot of stuff trainwise.”

He said Taylor had a keen interest in Engine No. 209, always digging for more information to add to his collection.

“He had a lot of stories of trains and he had a lot of signs,” he said.

Bolstered by support from his mom and a positive response from the council, Callahan started the petition for the name change.

“I got a really positive reaction from some of the councilmen,” he said. “(Mayor Pro Tem) Robert Hamrick (and) George Wangemann, they said ‘go for it,’ and I collected 250 signatures.”

The petition, submitted in September, is now under council’s consideration.

“They are currently considering it right now — taking it under advisement,” he said.

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