Garden Grove

He’s honored in the park he pioneered

BUST OF JACK WALLIN is examined by (left) widow Marge Wallin and (right) City Councilman Phat “Pat” But (Tribune photos).

By Jim Tortolano

History and honors came together Tuesday afternoon at Atlantis Play Center in Garden Grove as hundreds of people gathered for the unveiling of a bust honoring one of the city’s founding fathers, Jack Wallin.

“Growing up here, I have very fond memories of the people who made a difference in my life, and made living in Garden Grove even more special,” said Mayor Steve Jones. “Cause when you’re a kid you’re all about having fun and even though I didn’t know it at the time, I had Jack to thank for it.

“Jack was thegodfather of fun who brought a timeless magic to Garden Grove that’s lasted for generations and certainly will continue for many more,” he added.

Wallin was not only the brains and hands of Garden Grove’s collection of parks, he pioneered the aquatic-themed Atlantis Play Center, which won awards, imitation and the hearts of many a youngster.

MAYOR STEVE JONES at Tuesday’s event in Atlantis Play Center.

“This beautiful bust is Garden Grove’s way of honoring him and thanking him for his priceless contributions to our community in a place that holds so much meaning for him.”

The bust, located near the entrance and facing out toward the rolling expanses of Atlantis, was designed and sculpted by Jennifer Stewart, an artist who is also the owner of the popular Azteca Mexican Restaurant on Main Street in Garden Grove.

Other speakers included Jack’s widow Marge, former fire chief Lon Cahill, Jack’s son Steve and Strawberry Festival Association president Dawn Miller.

Cahill offered a few words about the saltier side of Jack’s personality.

“I’m amazed that we are all gathered here to get a look at Jack’s bust,” he said. “Jack would get a laugh out of that. That’s the way we talked to each other.”

John Montanchez, community services director for the city served as master of ceremonies for the event, which was attended by local dignitaries as well as friends and associates of Wallin.

Wallin passed away at the age of 88 in September 2018 after a lifetime of service to The Big Strawberry. He served as the city’s first parks superintendent for 17 years in the late Fifties into the Sixties.

He had served on the board of what is now the Strawberry Festival Association since its start, and had been active in many community organizations and agencies including the Kiwanis Club and Elks Lodge and the city’s recreation and parks commission.

Wallin served as grand marshal of the Strawberry Festival parade in 2008 and again in 2018.  He was on hand when the Festival succeeded the Grovers’ Day celebration in 1958.



2 replies »

  1. Thank you Jack Wallin for a whole heck of a lot of kids in parks fun. That bust though. Beautifully crafted, Jennifer. A lovely tribute to a good guy. Still overseeing a park. 🌱

    • Thanks Josh and Jim Tortelano for posting this article. A GREAT DAY honoring my FATHER. It was nice seeing all the FRIENDS and FAMILY who came to this WONERFUL and EMOTIONAL Tribute. Thank you to the Mayor MR JONES and other city dignitaries who made this happen.
      A BIG SINCERE THANK YOU to MS. JENNIFER STEWART the artist of the BUST . It was way beyond what was expected. I’m so PROUD along with my sisters JACKIE WALLIN , SHANNON WATERMOLEN and CLAUDIA LAMBERT to have been long time residents of GARDEN GROVE. BLESSINGS TO ALL……..Steven Wallin 4/1/2019

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