RIGBY – The old stomping grounds of an NFL-Hall-of Famer will soon carry his namesake.
Michelle Barber, Chair of the Honoring Larry Wilson Committee, tells EastIdahoNews.com Rigby City Park will soon be renamed the Larry F. Wilson Park.
Wilson, who grew up in Rigby and died in 2020 at age 82, played 13 seasons with the former St. Louis Cardinals and pioneered the safety blitz. His boyhood home, which is still occupied today, is on East 1st North across the street from the south side of the park.
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A dedication ceremony to rename the park in Wilson’s memory will be held in the southwest corner of the park on July 9. Two 4-foot tall signs designating the new name with some biographical information about Wilson will be placed on opposite sides of the park. Barber, Mayor Richard Datwyler and other dignitaries will be in attendance.
“Last year, we designated (East 1st North) as Larry Wilson Way. (We are going to place signs on the road) and the mayor is going to dedicate those street signs that day as well,” Barber says.
Idaho Central Credit Union funded the sign project and Pro Signs in Idaho Falls helped create them.
This effort comes nearly a year after a Larry Wilson monument was unveiled at the Rigby High School football stadium. Prior to that, Barber says the City Council was actively seeking a name change for the park.
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Around the same time, Barber and her committee had “Larry Wilson Way” street signs made and were seeking permission from the city to post them. That’s when a member of the City Council made a motion to rename the park after Larry Wilson.
“We said, ‘Yes! We’re on top of that,’” Barber recalls. “I went over to City Hall one day and Dave Swager, the city clerk, asked if I would head up (this effort).”
The signs were posted last summer. Barber says they intended to dedicate the street signs at that time but it never happened. The dedication ceremony for the renaming of the park seemed like a good opportunity to make it happen, she says.
Wilson’s football days in Rigby
Barber grew up watching Wilson play football and is a student of his life and career. She explains that in his teenage years, Wilson often walked across the street to play football at the city park.
She recalls something his neighbor, George Marriott, once shared about him.
“George said he watched (Larry) go over to the park as a young man and throw a football to the other end of the field and then run down and kick it back over and over again,” Barber says. “That is also where the old high school field was that was initially dedicated to Larry.”
Wilson attended the dedication ceremony with his family in 1967 and his No. 7 jersey was retired as well.
Today, the field at Harwood Elementary bears his name, though there have been numerous unsuccessful attempts in recent years to put his name back on the high school field.
Barber is hoping to eventually get Wilson’s name on the new high school stadium.
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Barber describes Wilson as a kind, humble, generous man who “had a work ethic like no other.” She hopes Wilson’s legacy gives the rising generation a hero to emulate.
“Knowing that Larry Wilson is from my hometown is a source of pride for me and I think it should be for (everyone else who lives here),” she says. “We have all kinds of heroes in our lives, but somebody like Larry deserves to be called a hometown hero.”
The dedication ceremony for Larry H. Wilson Park will take place at 12:30 p.m. on July 9 during the Hot Classic Nights car show.