Lt. Colonel Lorwyn E. Peterson – Park #73

I have said it before and I’ve got to say it again.. I meet the kindest people when writing and researching these stories.  When details are scant; I go looking for folks.  

This time I found the Atwell family who are direct relations of Lorwyn Peterson. It was a great pleasure to meet you personally!! 

Thanks again for the tidbits of information and the use of the photos.  

Truly – ag

PS. We will get to Fred Nagle next..

PETE IN CHARGE

Location: Pickford, Curtis and Greenfield

Lorwyn Elwyn Peterson (1908-1945) graduated from Michigan State College in 1930 with a degree in Business Administration. The son of Elwyn and Marie, he was raised in Brooklyn, a small town located in the Irish Hills area of Michigan.

 Photo of Lorwyn Peterson
The courageous and faithful Lt. Colonel Lorwyn Elwyn “Pete” Peterson circa 1943. Photo with kind permission from the Atwell Family.

Peterson enlisted for duty in World War II and rose rank to Lieutenant Colonel and Commander of the 716th Tank Battalion, 43rd Infantry Armored Division. Peterson’s relatives tell us he was to be made a full Colonel, however preferred to stay on with the men he trained for duty.    Continue reading “Lt. Colonel Lorwyn E. Peterson – Park #73”

Staff Sgt. John Charles Luger, Jr. – Park 52

When approached by the City of Detroit to describe her son John Luger, his grieving mother gently wrote,  “He had a very pleasing personality and was loved by all who knew him. Many of his friends still visit me.”  – – Margaret Luger, July 1947.   Continue reading “Staff Sgt. John Charles Luger, Jr. – Park 52”

James Lee Varier – Park 17

NINETEEN
On Thatcher Street near Greenfield and Outer Drive there is a small and lovely wooded park named after a courageous soldier.

 

varier b
James Lee Varier was born on July 8, 1925 in Ohio. At the age of three, James lost his father Owen who died while waiting for surgery in an Ohio hospital. After this loss, the family moved to Michigan.
James grew up in Detroit; living with his mother Marcele, two sisters, and grandparents in Detroit. In April 1944, he began serving in World War II with the 2nd Battalion, 276th Infantry Regiment, 70th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. He rose to the rank of Private First Class.
On January 12, 1945 James volunteered to serve with the battalion’s wire section. The unit was attacked by an enemy patrol and communication became difficult. Varier was severely wounded by enemy fire; despite his wounds, he covered the withdrawal of other soldiers with rifle fire until he died. His courage and strength enabled a soldier to escape and return with military reinforcements which drove off the enemy.
Private First Class James Varier died at 19 and received the Silver Star posthumously for gallantry in action. His service and valor are not forgotten. The plaque dedicating this park remains.

Copyright Andrea Gallucci 2013.varier c

Dr. Archibald Warren Diack – Park 13

FATHER OF THE FIRST UNOFFICIAL DETROIT PLAYGROUND

The Diack family has deep roots in Detroit.  They were a clan that used intelligence and creativity to make things happen.  Let’s refer to them as ‘a family of doers’.

THE BASICS

There were three generations of men that bore the name Archibald Warren Diack – a father, his son, and a grandson.  They were known as Arch and Archie – never the formal Archibald.

a park

Archibald Warren Diack [Sr.] was a Scottish immigrant born in 1838.  He served in the Civil War and later worked as a molder for the Michigan Stove Co.  Diack became interested in labor unions and was successful at forming a union at the plant where he worked.  Eventually, workers struck and all men settled except for Diack – a lone holdout.  Diack was known as a stubborn man, not to compromise.  The stove company considered his influence and stature among the other workers; they settled with him separately.    Obviously he was a man of principle and action and he raised some remarkably driven children too.

His eldest son, Alexander Diack stopped school to work, but later resumed his studies becoming a successful becoming a dentist and a steamship operator.  He pursued his love of skating and was considered an expert figure skater and curler.  He studied criminal law and was one of the first and outspoken advocates that worked to appeal the prohibition amendment. Sweetly, he created a bird sanctuary at his home in Birmingham, MI.

THE NAMESAKE

Born in 1870, Dr. Archibald W. Diack [Jr.] was multi-talented.  He earned degrees in both Dentistry and Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan.  At heart, he was an entrepreneur and an inventor.  He opened his own laboratory in Detroit in 1909 and later formed a partnership resulting in Diack & Smith (Chemical Engineers and Analysts) in Detroit in 1920. He designed a sterilization system for bandages that was adopted by hospitals across the United States and by the US Navy.  The Diack Sterilization Monitor business continues on today in 2013.  Before he could forge these accomplishments, Archie served as a Seaman aboard the USS Yosemite in the Spanish American War.  The crew on this ship was considered highly educated with approximately 46 men serving from the University of Michigan.

His most unspoken accomplishment was his concern for others-  especially youth.  During his days as a dentist, the family lived at 942 Congress between Mount Elliot and Leib St.  This beautiful address was marked by elm lined streets where neighbors tended to French Pear trees in their yards and well-spoken parrots perched on the large front porches.  Back in the day, the neighborhood to the south – the Franklin Settlement – was considered somewhat rough and tumble; the other side of the tracks.  Little was available for young men in regards to recreation. Diack befriended the boys of the Franklin Settlement, found them a field, and provided some sporting activities and games.  He created one of the first unofficial playgrounds in Detroit.  He impressed the importance of education upon them.  Ultimately, he made a difference in their lives as many of them became prominent businessmen.  Arch passed in 1946.

EPILOGUE

Archibald Jr. had two sons who both became doctors. Archibald [III] [1907-1993] and was the one of the first persons to conceive of an automated electronic defibrillator; he held the patent.   In 1937, he moved from Detroit to Portland, Oregon where he began a long career as a private physician.  In Portland, Dr. Diack became heavily involved in environmental stewardship founding a recreational coalition and river basin education project.  His strong advocacy for protection of the Sandy River Basin resulted in the “Diack Decision” by the Oregon Supreme Court which changed water laws.   Before his death, he began the Diack Family Ecology Fund to sustain his environmental work after he took his last breath.

The park that honors Dr. A. W. Diack  is located between Thatcher and Curtis -just north of Outer Drive in Northwest Detroit. It was dedicated on August 10, 1950 many of the ‘Franklin Boys’ attended the dedication ceremony.  Personally, I think this park honors the entire Diack family who gave of themselves to make Detroit and the world a better and more interesting place.

Detroit needs to channel that Diack spirit right now.

Albert Fields Playground – 9

PVT. ALBERT FIELDS 

ALWAYS REMEMBERED

a WWII photo of Albert Fields
Private Albert Fields

Albert Fields was the first deceased Jewish World War II soldier to be brought from the battlefield to Belgium for reburial in the United States.  His death on December 12, 1944 left his wife Lillian and young son, Sander to go it alone in Detroit.  Private Fields was recovering from shrapnel wounds received in a bomb blast, when he was reassigned to active duty.  This time he would participate in the Battle of the Bulge.

His unit, the 80th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, Company B was sent to Hoven, Germany to capture a bridge.  Fields perished in Hoven as he gave his life in order to allow emergency medical treatment to other casualties.

Six years later, his memory was honored with a Detroit city park bearing his name.  His son, Sander Fields remembered the pride he felt standing by his mother’s side and at that initial dedication ceremony in 1951.

In 2007, the Forrer Community Block Club along with support from the City of Detroit and Wayne County cleaned up the Albert Fields park and had it rededicated.  At that ceremony, grandson James said, “My father often wonders about what his relationship with Albert would have been like. My brother Andrew and I wish we had the opportunity to have known our grandfather. A part of all of us died with Albert Fields in Hoven, Germany, on that nasty winter day. No one will ever know the influence he may have had on his family and fellow Americans if he had not been killed defending his beloved country.”

Albert Fields was awarded the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts for his wartime valor, courage, and commitment to country.  The Memorial Playground dedicated to his memory is located near Florence and Greenfield – it’s in great shape and enjoyed daily by neighborhood walkers and joggers.

Military photo courtesy of Temple Beth El / Franklin Archives. 
Copyright 2013 – Andrea Gallucci.  All Rights Reserved.  

A photo of a boulder
The flagpole is gone – replaced by a dedication boulder in 2007.

Viola Gregg Liuzzo – Park 7

MORE THAN A HOUSEWIFE 

In memory of one courageous mother..
In memory of one courageous mother..

Viola Liuzzo was born in Pennsylvania on April 11, 1925.  During her teens, her family relocated to Ypsilanti, Michigan where she worked at the Willow Run Bomber Plant during World War II.  She married at age 18, had two children, and divorced six years later.  Post divorce, Viola enrolled in medical training school and graduated with honors.  She met Teamster Anthony James Liuzzo while waitressing  at the Olympia Bar in Detroit; they married in 1951.  Viola attended the Universalist Unitarian Church and Wayne State University in the early 1960’s where her interest in the Civil Rights Movement was piqued.

In March 1965, she became active in marches to show solidarity for blacks in Alabama who were seeking federal passage of the right to vote.   During the days of March 20 to March 25, 1965, she worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to shuttle civil rights supporters between Selma and Montgomery using her car.  On her final loop to pick up the last group, she and local civil rights advocate Leroy Moton, an African American man, were spotted by four Klansmen.  Liuzzo was shot to death on Highway 80 while trying to flee to safety.  Mr. Moton was lucky to escape by pretending to be dead at the scene of the crash.  Three of the Klansmen were apprehended and quickly indicted.  The final Klansmen turned out to be an undercover FBI informant who testified for the prosecution.

Viola Liuzzo’s death increased congressional support to pass the Voting Rights Act which President Lyndon Johnson signed in August 1965.  Her funeral was attended by Jimmy Hoffa, Walter P. Reuther, Rev. Martin Luther King, William Milliken and others influential in government and Civil Rights.

A small playground at Trojan and Winthrop Streets on Detroit’s northwest side honors the memory of Viola Liuzzo –  one courageous mother.

Copyright 2013. Andrea Gallucci. All rights reserved.

Alice Nesbitt Gorham – Park 6

PRESS AGENT / MARKETING GURU 

Alice Gorham would have loved the newer sign currently hanging at her playground at the corner of Pembroke and St. Mary’s in Detroit..  The bright yellow background with red funky lettering screams marketing.

Dedicated to Allice Nesbitt Gorham
Dedicated to Alice Nesbitt Gorham

As a press agent for more than 30 years, Alice Gorham had an exciting and successful Detroit career.  She worked for Fred Grennell’s advertising agency before being lured to Channel 7 WXYZ-TV Detroit where she wrote newscasts, publicity, and the scripts for then station produced show “Hollywood Highlights”.   In 1933, her boss was awarded a contract to manage a group of Detroit movie theaters [then known as movie palaces] – the Michigan, United Artists, State, Fisher, Rivera, Eastown  and  Ramona Theaters.  Alice quickly became the head of advertising for this theater group and staged the most interesting and outrageous marketing to draw in the entertainment seeking market.

CREATIVE AND CIVIC MINDED

In addition to her busy career, Alice co-authored music.  She was the publicist and a booster of The Old Newsboys of Detroit whose main mission was to collect toys for needy children at Christmastime.   For many years, a literature rack bearing her name stood in the lobby of the Mariner’s Church  in downtown Detroit.  Alice was loved by the Old Newsboys and she loved them in return by providing her services pro bono.  In April 1950, she was selected to be on the planning committee for the City of Detroit’s 250th Anniversary celebration.

Mrs. Gorham passed away in 1957 shortly after the death of her beloved husband, Glenn.   She is buried in Lake City Cemetery, Lake City MI.  By 1959, the Detroit Common Council passed a resolution to dedicate a playground to honor the memory of this busy entertainment woman who touched Detroit in interesting and creative ways.

Copyright 2013. © Andrea Gallucci  All rights reserved. 

Joesph Bale Playfield – Park # 2

Joseph Bale WWII Veteran

Joseph Bale

World War II Veteran and good buddy

Joseph Bale WWII Veteran
Private First Class Bale

When you are traveling down Greenfield Road, turn west onto Margareta or Clarita Street and you will immediately stumble onto the Joe Bale Playfield.   While a student at Michigan State University, “Little Joe” Bale enlisted for duty in World War II.  He served with the Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment of the 3rd Division in the invasion of Anzio, Italy and Southern France.  A few weeks after turning 21 years, Bale lost his life in the fierce Battle of Colmar Pocket on January 30, 1945 near Wihr-en-Plaine, France.

Bale’s battalion was attacked by enemy tanks.  He fearlessly returned fire with his rocket launcher, ignoring shells exploding five yards away and machine gun bullets.  Joe knocked out an enemy tank, forcing the Germans to withdraw. Later, the same morning his battalion was again attacked by another tank at 100 yards.  Again, he braved shell fire in another single-handed attempt to destroy the tank; unfortunately he was mortally wounded.   Joe Bale’s courage was posthumously honored with the Distinguished Service Cross.

Not forgotten

Veterans, relatives and friends formed The Pfc. Joseph Bale Post 474 on June 9, 1946 – affiliated with the Jewish War Veterans Association of Michigan.  Within two years, the post grew to over 100 members  and eventually became the largest JWVA post in the Michigan.  In 1953, Bale’s memory was honored with the dedication of this Detroit park.  Mayor Albert Cobo, Rabbi Morris Adler, his parents and Post 474 members were in attendance for that Wednesday evening ceremony.

Joe was known as a superior athlete at Central High School in Detroit and at college.  MSU named a dormitory building in his honor.  [The building has since been renamed.]  In 2011, the Michigan Jewish Sports Association honored both ‘Little’ Joe and his cousin ‘Big’ Joe Bale by hanging a plaque in their Hall of Fame to honor the memory of those students who served in war and for those who were never were able to fulfill their dream of competing in college sports.

As of this writing, the Joseph Bale Post 474 continues to hold monthly meetings. They remain a unified group who uphold the memory of all veterans through the fundraisers and attendance at religious and commemorative ceremonies.   Importantly, they refuse to forget the simple story of an ‘average Joe’ that rose far above the ordinary.  He gave his life fighting for his country and as a result, saved the lives of his buddies.

There are some things that are easily forgotten in 5 minutes and there are other events that can’t be forgotten across a life time.  Joe’s memory lives on.

Military photo courtesy of The Rabbi Leo M. Franklin Archive

Commemorative plaque
Joe Bale Commemorative Playground Plaque

 
Copyright 2013. © Andrea Gallucci All rights reserved.