On August 28, 2014, York Township lost a great friend of its parks when Donald Hasselbach passed away after a prolonged illness. Don was one of those unsung heroes who was better known for his work than for his bluster. It was easy to overlook Don.
Like those men of metal that were cast as integral parts of the toy tractors we played with as children, Don most often appeared as a fixture of the Ford, John Deere, Massey, or other tractor that perceptive park passers-by noted manicuring the trails or other grassy spaces in Sandra Richardson Park (SRP). They may also have made note of a red pick-up trailering one of those tractors over the roads between his home near SRP and Mary McCann Park on Warner Road, the township’s other park.
Don was the unofficial maintenance man for the parks. He fell into that role naturally after joining the Parks Committee in 2007 (?), when development work in MMP required rototilling small plots for wildflower gardens, spraying larger areas and then tilling and planting them to prairies and Pheasants Forever plots.
From that beginning, Don expanded his work to include any and every task that required a tractor and equipment of a certain size. And Don had every tractor and piece of equipment any park manager could wish for. Don was a collector…not only of the real items, but also of all manner of related farm and construction memorabilia , including the aforementioned toy replicas of his favorite mechanical devices.
Earlier in his long and varied life, he had had lots of experience with those machines. He was born on and grew up on a farm in what is now one of Detroit’s thriving western suburbs. And a good part of his working life was spent with the Wayne County Road Commission, where he brought his talents to bear on the state of the roads and rights-of-way.
The next time you pass by one of York Township’s parks — or better yet, take time to enjoy their natural settings with a leisurely stroll along their paths — take a moment to mentally pay tribute to a man you may not have known, but one who helped create the restful and beautiful place you are then enjoying.