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'Legacy' dedication honors San Ramon's Byron Athan

'Tribute to his lifetime of service to his family, his community and his country'

San Ramon community members gathered last week to dedicate the newest piece of public artwork in honor of one of San Ramon's most committed civil servants, former mayor Byron D. Athan.

"Legacy," a sculpture by artist Madeline Wiener, was installed next to the tennis courts at Athan Downs, the city park that bears the late city leader's name.

Several dozen people were on hand for the dedication ceremony July 26, including members of Athan's family and former city colleagues. Athan, who died in 2009 at age 91, served as San Ramon's city attorney, interim city manager, City Council member and mayor during his city career.

"Legacy" includes sculpture designs on each of four sides: people playing tennis, a person jogging, family members embracing and a serviceman saluting.

The sculpture "serves as a tribute to his lifetime of service to his family, his community and his country," and its location was picked because the tennis courts were among Athan's favorite places in San Ramon, city officials said in a statement.

San Ramon poet laureate Kathy Moore read an original poem, "Lasting Legacy," during the dedication to mark the occasion. The audience also heard comments from Wiener, Mayor Bill Clarkson, Will Doerlich of the Parks and Community Services Commission and Michael Gordon, chair of the Arts Advisory Committee.

During the project's planning process, city officials said they interviewed several artist candidates, and they ultimately selected Wiener because they thought she understood how important Athan was to the San Ramon community and she would be able to create a detailed artwork to bring to life stories told about Athan.

"Legacy" is the 10th piece of art on public property in San Ramon, in addition to more than 40 other artworks displayed on private property across the city. The last piece of public art was the mosaic floor dedicated inside the new City Hall in the spring.

Athan spent much of his life in public service. He joined the U.S. Army during World War II and served 23 years, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1964.

He moved to San Ramon that year, and two years later he joined the board of directors of the Valley Community Services District (now known as the Dublin San Ramon Services District), serving there until 1973.

While board president, he helped the district pass a $6.7 million bond, which funded the first two public parks in San Ramon, plus the senior center and San Ramon Olympic Pool. The district named Athan Downs -- a 20-acre park at the intersection of Montevideo and Davona drives -- in Athan's honor in 1976 to commemorate his work related to the bond.

Later, Athan was part of the committee that helped propel San Ramon to incorporation as a city in 1983.

He worked as city attorney from incorporation to 1995, served as a City Council member from 1995-99 including mayor from 1998-99, and then again became city attorney from 2004-09. He also served as interim city manager twice during his career, and he was designated as city attorney emeritus by the council prior to his death in November 2009.

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