Jim Cullen: A name to remember
BY AMBER GEORGE —
Many Flagstaff citizens exchanged memories and shed tears as they gathered to remember the life of Jim Cullen, an avid volunteer and lifetime Flagstaff resident, at the city council meeting on Feb. 19. A group of loving family, friends and coworkers pulled together in hopes the city council members would change the name of Flagstaff Mountain View Park to Jim Cullen Memorial Park in honor of the former resident.
Cullen was a devoted husband, father and friend. After a vigorous battle with cancer, Cullen died on Sept. 26, 2010. Although he left the physical world behind, his memory holds strong through his well-known charity involvement and the many stories shared in the community.
“The renaming is based on Jim’s community involvement and generosity extended throughout several charities,” said Kelly Cullen, Jim Cullen’s son and one of the leaders of the motion.
During the council meeting, the story of Jim Cullen was shared by two of his sons, Kelly and Tony, and devoted Marine friends and even some of the councilmembers.
“I lived across the street from my father for eight years and almost every night I was able to go over and say ‘Hello.’ Some people may say, ‘What were you thinking?’ but to me, it was an honor,” Tony Cullen said.
Jim Cullen partook in various charitable events through his life, including the Marines’ Toys for Tots drive. He also set up a myriad of youth programs in Flagstaff, which allow underprivileged kids to increase their community involvement. Those who knew him spoke highly of his actions and remembered all of the great things he did for youth. Residents shared stories of how Jim Cullen raised thousands of donations for children and how he devoted ample amounts of his time to helping those around him.
“Still today, I find guys my age coming to me saying, ‘Your dad bought me a jacket’ or ‘Your dad took me to the dentist,’” Tony Cullen continued. “Finding these things out now is just a joy for me to discover.”
Although there were many of Jim Cullen’s friends and family speaking on his behalf, one Marine who served with him, Joe Ray, said the stories shared were only the “tip of the iceberg.”
“Jim was a man who did not know how to say, ‘No,’” Ray said.
Through the night, many people commented on Jim Cullen’s willingness to go above and beyond when asked for help. This is what his friends and family wanted to remember as they petitioned for Mountain View Park to be renamed after him.
Along with the public audience, many of the council members and even Mayor Jerry Nabours were moved by the motion and reflected on fond memories of Jim Cullen. Councilman Scott Overton was one of many to share his memories with the public.
“As a lifetime Flagstaff resident, my family knew Cullen’s family and I knew Jim later in life,” Overton said. “This park embodies Jim Cullen; it is the right place and the right time to name a beautiful park after a long, outstanding lifetime citizen.”
By the end of the presentation, the vote was unanimous and the motion passed without hesitation. Many grateful citizens were ecstatic the park’s name would soon be changing to represent an old friend.
Jim Cullen may be gone, but his life and generosity carries on through the lives and stories of his children and friends. The Jim Cullen Memorial Park will stand as a symbol of his caring and youthful personality, and through the memories he left behind, his legacy will forever remain in his hometown of Flagstaff.