Before Dan Summer made his mark in Gainesville, the downtown square resembled a ghost town.
Summer died in January at 55, after a battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The prominent Gainesville attorney and former Main Street Gainesville advisory board chairman was remembered Tuesday afternoon by friends and family on the downtown square.
Main Street Gainesville chose to commemorate Summer and his legacy in Gainesville with a small, permanent plaque fixed in an island on the corner of Bradford and Washington streets.
The plaque calls Summer “a true visionary and preservationist for Gainesville.”
“He was my neighbor in downtown,” said Dale Jaeger, Main Street advisory board member and downtown business owner. “When I think about Dan, I think about all he did for downtown. I remember him coming across the street, suited up to go to court. I read his obituary recently, and it talked about what a great trial lawyer he was. I can just see the energy in him, headed to court.”
Summer served on the Main Street advisory board for years and was the board’s second chairman, according to Jaeger.
“He really got this program started on the sound footing it’s on today,” she said.
Summer and his wife, Chandelle, opened Summer and Summer, Attorneys at Law, in 1990. They would go on to create Summer Historic Acquisitions, developing historic preservation in Gainesville and other areas throughout the state.
The plaque in his honor sits adjacent to one of his downtown acquisitions, the Summer and Summer office on Bradford Street.
Jaeger credited Summer with much of the growth on the downtown square, which she said “didn’t happen overnight.”
“Those who’ve long been in downtown can remember coming out here on a Saturday and there’d hardly be a car on the square,” she said.
Art Kunzer, downtown property owner and former merchant on the square for 30 years, called Summer “a catalyst.”
“I would close my windows at about 6 p.m., walk out and the square was absolutely empty,” he said. “I mean, not a car in sight. He came in and he was a visionary. He had the guts to look at these properties and see what could happen. He really was Mr. Main Street.”
Regina Mansfield, Main Street manager, said she interacted with Summer a few times in the four years she’s worked for Main Street.
“I always heard wonderful things about him,” she said. “And his passion for downtown was just remarkable. Every time we had a conversation, that’s what came up. I just appreciate what he did for business here.”
Chandelle Summer thanked those gathered Tuesday for their commitment to her husband’s memory.
“There have been so many nice tributes, people saying great things and doing great things for Dan,” she said. “Keeping his memory alive is so important to me, and I really appreciate what we’re doing here today.”
Tripp Wingate, president of the Gainesville Bar Association, shared stories of Summer, who Wingate first encountered in his second week of practicing law.
Wingate said Summer was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to the Judicial Nominating Commission, was a fellow in the Lawyers Foundation of Georgia and served as president of the Bar Association.
He was awarded the Civil Rights Award by the Newtown Florist Club and the Humanitarian Award by the NAACP.
Wingate said everyone should strive to be more like Summer.
“He was a heck of a lawyer and a true gentleman,” Wingate said. “Without a doubt he left this world a better place, and he certainly left his mark on Gainesville.”