Have. Fun. Damnit.
Three words, four syllables, but a message regularly delivered by former Wheeling councilman Don Atkinson on Facebook.
And it resonated. It became his slogan. It also evolved into a mantra of sorts for the people of Wheeling.
Atkinson was a council member for eight years during Andy McKenzie's tenure as Wheeling's mayor and he was never afraid to speak his mind on what issues were being tackled by him and his colleagues. It did not matter if it was about the demolition of six buildings in the 1100 block of downtown Wheeling, the development of a large apartment building along Washington Avenue, or the difficulties the city experienced with a few property owners.
He was tired of the defeated mindset he witnessed develop during his lifetime in Wheeling, so he said something about it.
"Have fun, damnit!"
But Atkinson has vanished from the Facebook world, making good on a pledge he made because the beginning of 2017. His final day on the social platform was Dec. 31, as promised, and he posted a plethora of photos from his days as a boy growing up in the Fulton neighborhood as well as a few taken during his career with Ace Garage. He's work the graveyard shift, by choice, for more than 25 years and he has seen the "nighttime Wheeling" more than most.
"It's pretty different out there," he would always say during our on-air interviews. "Most people don't get to see what I get to see."
That includes the gruesome, too, because of the traffic accidents he's reported to on the roadways and interstates. Let's just say he's had his eyeballs on the same things we so enjoy during action movies these days. But still …
"Have fun, damnit!"
Atkinson was defeated in May 2016 in his bid for re-election and I will admit that the loss robbed me of one of my favorite on-air guests. It did not matter what the question was, he would answer it to the best of his ability, and if he didn't know the answer to one of inquiries, he found it out and let me know.
Atkinson remains an asset to the city of Wheeling, in my opinion, and it is my hope that the new representative of Ward 5, Ty Thorngate, as well as Mayor Glenn Elliott, reach out to him to ask for his unique perspectives about what's possible next. His contributions traveled much further than the ever-so-popular mantra because he's lived his entire life, has always cared about the future of Wheeling (he even ran for the mayor's office 17 years ago against eight other candidates), and these days his insight includes the needs and wants of a grandparent in Wheeling.
I mean, we are redesigning and upgrading our playgrounds, right?
Now, I seriously doubt a little blog like this one will convince the man to return to social media … he's far too busy tinkering with vintage cars and trucks, playing with his grandson, and hanging out with his son and with his beautiful bride, Gail, but by chance he reads this …
I do hope you're having fun, damnit.