Corbett is forming committee to name memorial for Don Canney

Cedar Rapids Mayor Don Canney at work in his office at City Hall. Canney served as mayor from 1969-1992. (The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Mayor Don Canney at work in his office at City Hall. Canney served as mayor from 1969-1992. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Mayor Ron Corbett says the city will name one of its key public facilities for Don Canney to commemorate the life and service of the city’s longest-serving mayor.

Corbett on Wednesday said citizens have been quick to step forward to suggest ideas to him since learning of Canney’s death on Sunday at age 80.

Among the suggestions of places to be named for Canney — the airport terminal, the library and the former federal courthouse that is being renovated into the new home of City Hall.

“I think it’s important for the city to do something very special to recognize the service that Mayor Don Canney gave to the citizens of Cedar Rapids, not just for the 22 years he was mayor, but he continued to serve this community even as an unelected official,” Corbett said.

“We’re not looking for just a stone marker or something like that,” he continued. “We’re looking for something significant to have Don Canney’s name associated with. Don was big into public infrastructure, so it only makes sense from the standpoint also.”

Canney, a civil engineer by training and the maker of his own brand of fish filet knives, served as Cedar Rapids streets commissioner for more than six years and mayor from 1969 into 1992. His funeral is this morning at 10 o’clock at St. Pius X Catholic Church.

Corbett has named Ralph Palmer, president of the Ar-Jay Center, to head up a citizen committee to help in naming something for Canney. Corbett said other possible committee members include Ann Ollinger, longtime Cedar Rapids city clerk who retired last July, Hal Schaefer and Wayne Murdock, former longtime city commissioners who served with Canney at City Hall, former Mayor Lee Clancey and Bill Hoekstra, the city’s former transit director.

“When Ron called me, I said, ‘This is kind of neat,’” Palmer said Wednesday. “And it does need to happen because leadership is one thing, but vision is something else. And Don had both of those.”

Palmer said naming the airport or the airport terminal after Canney was one good idea, but he said the city’s Airport Commission would need to be asked first.

He remembered the days when Canney was at City Hall and Interstate 380 was “hammered through” the city even as businesses and homes came down to make way for the highway.

“But our community today, without that going through town, wow, what would we be missing out on?” Palmer said. “But I don’t think they’re going to let us rename 380.”

Palmer said Canney had a great sense of humor that featured his own version of Yogi Berraisms.

“Ralph, I remember things that never ever happened,” Palmer said Canney used to tell him.Only a visionary, Palmer said, could come up with something like that.

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