CARTERVILLE — Carterville Area Rotary Club, city officials, local dog lovers and friends and family of Bill and Pat Searcy gathered Saturday morning to celebrate their lives and dedicate a new pavilion in the Carterville Bark Park to the couple. Bill and Pat Searcy died in a plane crash in September 2017 in West Virginia.

The large pavilion covers parts of both the large dog and small dog sides of the park, with the fence between the two play areas running through the center of the structure.

“I’m really happy that the Rotary wanted to dedicate the pavilion to Bill and Pat Searcy. They were instrumental in creating the dog park,” Mayor Brad Robinson said.

He added that he worked directly with Bill during the creation of the bark park. The Bark Park committee was Bill Searcy and Janice McConnaughy.

“It is a fitting tribute to Bill and Pat and the work they did to make the Bark Park happen,” Robinson said.

Jason Cook, president of the Carterville Area Rotary Club said the project has been a labor of love. He added that the city is partnering with the club to maintain the park.

Both Cook and McConnaughy talked about how the couple dedicated their lives to serving their community.

After Patty Searcy retired from teaching, she volunteered with the after-school Astra program tutoring children, served on the board of Anne West Lindsey Library and volunteered at the library, taught conformation classes to parish children (helping them cook meals for Lighthouse Shelter), was a docent at Harrison-Bruce Historical Village, was an election judge and monitored bluebird houses on Crab Orchard Golf Course.

Bill Searcy was a U.S. Navy veteran of Vietnam, served in the Naval Reserves, recruited candidates for the Naval Academy and worked at The Southern Illinoisan, SIU, Northwestern Mutual Insurance and Pepsi, and owned Swiss Colony and Sears Appliance stores. He was a pilot for 20 years.

“Bill was a member and past president of Carterville Area Rotary Club, and this is how most of us got to know them both. They were a package deal. Whatever Bill volunteered for, Patty was always there to support what we were trying to do to help the community,” McConnaughy said.

She added that a few of those things included: volunteering at junior high school dances, helping with Cannon Park Military Salute, working a bucket brigade for scholarships, hosting Rotary exchange students and picking up trash along Illinois 13.

McConnaughy presented a plaque that will hang in the pavilion to their sons, Scott of New York and James of Herrin. They were moved to tears during the presentation.

“It’s bittersweet. My parents loved animals, and this is a very fitting tribute to their memory,” Scott Searcy said.

He was accompanied by his miniature golden-doodle, Molly.

“This is a great tribute to what my parents did with their lives. I’m very honored at this community’s outpouring for my parents,” James Searcy said.

He also was accompanied by his dog.

“My parents loved their dog so much they took it everywhere. My mother was really the animal lover, but my dad picked it out and named him Sam,” James Searcy said.

Sam also died in the plane crash. 

The pavilion was built by John A. Logan Highway Construction Careers Training Program under the direction of Mike Mausey. they also poured all the concrete at the Bark Park, including the walkway from the Community Center parking lot.

The class also requested funding through Illinois Department of Transportation to assist Rotary with the cost of building materials. Last week, they said through JALC and IDOT they are paying for all of the pavilion and concrete. 

After the dedication, the third annual Unleashed 5K Dog Jog began. The event is sponsored by Carterville Area Rotary to benefit the Bark Park.

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Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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