On Becoming a Memory- A Tribute to Bill Creason
This article originally appeared in the Grand Haven Tribue in 2014, written by Steven Radtke, Executive Director
The Tri-Cities community is a great place to live and work not only because of its abundant natural beauty, attractive, well maintained buildings, and clean streets, but because of the dedication and pride of its residents in keeping it so.
This week marks the passing of Dr. William M. Creason, who personified that passion and dedication to his town like few others do. The City of Grand Haven and its downtown are known across the state and around the country for being a beautiful place to live, work and visit, and the thanks for much of what we have today can be laid at the door of Dr. Creason.
As a mayor and city councilman in the 1950's and 60's, he championed innovative, forward thinking ideas to improve the town, and followed through to implementation to bring a number of things to live that we still enjoy to this day.
In the 1950's, Grand Haven's waterfront was a gritty, grimy, unattractive place to be. The remnants of our hard working past were all around in the form of deteriorating warehouse buildings, rotting docks and pilings, and piles of coal and other industrial castoffs. Dr. Creason had the vision to see what the waterfront could become, and enacted efforts to clean it up and attract people to the area.
One of the centerpieces of this effort was the creation of the musical fountain, which celebrated its 50th year in 2012 with a complete restoration of the works. The fountain was Dr. Creason's baby from start to finish, and he was instrumental in seeing through all of the challenges to get it up and running to become an icon of Grand Haven. Its location atop Dewy Hill indicates an awareness of how important and unique a natural feature the hill in is to the downtown area, and capitalizes on its commanding presence.
Other examples of forward thinking may have been ahead of their time, but show an anticipation of coming trends that would in later decades become crucial for the survival of downtowns and main streets. A pedestrian mall that closed off traffic in the first three blocks of Washington was tried in the late 1950's as downtowns across the country were starting to lose headway against large scale shopping centers in the suburbs. One of the first such efforts in the country, the idea did not end up being a success, but certainly shows that Dr. Creason was aware of the importance of giving people a reason to come downtown for a unique experience. This philosophy is the lifeblood of Grand Haven's downtown today.
The decade of the 1960's brought a lot of change to the country as a whole, and the Tri-Cities were not immune. The revamping of the community at that time saw an increasing loss of history in the name of progress. The community responded by creating at Historical Society which would later become the Tri-Cities Historical Museum, and Dr. Creason was at the forefront here as well. His early involvement with the museum continued throughout his life, and in the early 2000's, Dr. Creason was one of the primary movers in securing support and funding for the creation of the Akeley Building, the museums' headquarters in the old Steketee's building. The museum was proud to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the opening of this wonderful facility in the summer of 2014.
The staff and board of the museum appreciate all that was accomplished by this wonderful man. Dr. Creason's contributions to the quality of life in Grand Haven and his commitment to history and the museum cannot be overstated. His passing is a loss to the community, and his absence will be felt for some time. "One lives in the hope of becoming a memory." ― Antonio Porchia