The sun shone brightly Saturday in Oak Hill Park as more than 400 area residents gathered to pay tribute to Danville Town Councilman Mike Shimansky. He died Sept. 15 of bacterial meningitis while visiting family in San Diego.
Shimansky's widow Sue, along with their children and grandchildren, attended Saturday's event, which featured a table full of memorabilia from her husband's life as well as performances by the San Ramon Valley High School Treble Clef Choir and bagpiper Nick Theriault.
Peace Lutheran Church Pastor Steve Harms led off the memorial with words of praise and remembrance for the fallen councilman.
"We gather this afternoon to honor a leader, a former mayor, advocate and friend of our community. A husband and father, grandfather - Mr. Danville," he offered.
Harms said Shimansky, a parishioner at Peace Lutheran, did not wear his faith on his sleeve, but that he had experienced many things in his life that formed the person he became. One such event was hearing the late Martin Luther King Jr. speak. This gave Shimansky a broader perspective, and a view on other ideologies.
"I always felt that Mike was especially proud to support and encourage community events here where boundaries were transcended, either by individual faith traditions or the larger community itself," Harms said.
Harms also spoke of Shimansky's passion for Danville, and his perseverance over the years to install and improve the many parks through the town.
"Mike loved greening our community," Harms said with a smile, "because he knew the greener we got, the happier the people."
Shimansky's daughter Lori Knierim addressed the assembly next, talking about her father's love of family.
"Kids have always tugged at his heart," she recalled. "They've always been his No. 1 priority. My Dad's love for life was rekindled in all five of his grandchildren."
Knierim spoke of how proud her father was of Danville and the things they'd accomplished. She recounted how whenever they visited him they would always come to Oak Hill Park.
"He brought me here to this very park to show me my grandfather's brick at the All Wars Memorial, and my son's tree which he planted in his memory," she said.
Shimansky's son Greg pointed to Oak Hill Park in his address as well, humorously explaining how the parks in Danville were a reflection of his father.
"This park is kind of a poetic summary of all my Dad cared about," he said. Jokingly he added, "Minus the goose poop."
Service was a priority for Shimansky, his son told them. Whether it be working at a homeless shelter or helping out the Red Cross.
"My Dad carried a unique torch both figuratively and literally," Shimansky said. "At a time when politicians are judged by how much time they get on TV or how many times their name is in the paper, he cared more about serving at the homeless shelter."
He added, "When people were running to CNN to talk about(Hurricane)Katrina, he was running to the people of Katrina to give them food, blankets and hugs."
Shimansky also spoke of his father's time on the Town Council, and the many times his opinion ran contrary to his colleagues.
"We always laughed with him about his Wile E. Coyote-type record of losing 4-1 votes on City Council," he laughed. "I think he lost more 4-1 votes in 20 years than the Warriors won basketball games. He didn't see that as discouragement. To him that was a badge of honor. To him it meant that at least 20 percent of the town were getting their voices heard."
Shimansky elicited loud laughter from the crowd with his theory about why his father was taken now.
"The way I see it, God needed someone up there to balance out Ted Kennedy and put him in his place so he took my Dad," he suggested.
Danville Town Manager Joe Calabrigo was the last to speak during the tribute. He talked about his decades-long relationship with Shimansky, and his memories of the longtime public servant.
"I had the honor of knowing and working with Mike Shimansky for 24 years," he said. "Mike personified community service."
"He had a way of putting people at ease and a sense of humor to go with almost any occasion," he recalled. "He was involved in so many things it made my head spin."
Calabrigo pointed to Shimansky's many passions and projects over the years, the boards he served on and the battles he waged. He said that one of the things he remembers about him is the way he treated people.
"Through all this, I have to say, he was as humble and unpretentious as a person could be," he said. "Though he was well known in this community, recognizable around the town, if he walked into a meeting he sat in the back of the room."