'There’s a renaissance. It’s changing, changing a lot'
Don Furlong has become an unofficial cheerleader for Ogden.
When acquaintances bad-mouth the city, he steps in to put in a good word. Many of the critics invariably live outside Ogden, and he’ll invite them to the eateries and shops of the city center, try to get them to rethink their views.
“I’m quick to correct them (and say), ‘Come on down, visit us,’” said the 76-year-old aerospace industry retiree, who lives in a downtown apartment.
He doesn’t work for the chamber of commerce, though, or hold a formal city title. It’s just that the city has transformed in a good way, and he wants the world to know. “In fact, I’ve become an unofficial ambassador to Ogden,” he said.
Furlong — a volunteer at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, where he’ll frequently encounter naysayers — wasn’t always so sunny about Ogden. The city has a “dark past,” he said, remembering when the core area was rampant with crime, much of it petty stuff.
“Twenty-fifth Street was in pretty bad shape,” he said. He remembers going to the area years ago with visiting executives who wanted to see the grit of the place, which was more rowdy and dangerous than it is today.
Indeed, Furlong and his wife raised their two kids in the calmer confines of Layton, living there from 1981 to 2003. The family then moved to South Ogden. His wife, DelLene, died in 2007, and in 2011, he moved to Arizona. He’d spend summers in the Ogden area with a daughter and ultimately decided to move back in early 2016.
It didn’t take him long to settle on living in the downtown area, in a fifth-floor apartment with a stunning view of Ogden. “I thought, this is the perfect spot, so I took it,” he said.
And now, he takes it on himself to defend the city. Crime isn’t what it used to be, and Historic 25th Street, with its distinctive restaurants and stores, has gone through a transformation. “I felt like stepping in and doing something,” he said.
So aside from gently correcting what he says are the misconceptions many have about downtown Ogden, Furlong will inform city street crews about street lights that need replacing. He’ll prod skateboarders using downtown sidewalks to move to skate parks instead. He’ll talk to panhandlers, maybe buy them a sandwich and coffee, but also encourage them to tap the resources available for those passing through rough times.
“I enjoy it,” Furlong said.
He’s converted some of the Ogden critics he’s able to cajole downtown. “They’re surprised, yes. They enjoy it,” he said.
But he believes more could be done. He dreams of the city landing something like a world-class aquarium. There are buildings in the core area that still need work, that maybe should be demolished. “But that all takes time and money,” he said.
In the meantime, there are plenty of success stories, he said. He thinks the city has made great strides.
“There’s a renaissance,” he said. “It’s changing, changing a lot.”