Father Jozef Dabrowski   – Park 76    

Here’s one from the gone file. It’s a bit long so here’s a summary.. This corner playground disappeared in 2015. It received little public use and was sold to the business next door.  It is the former site of Detroit’s Polish Seminary founded by Father Dabrowski.  The seminary moved out of Detroit in the early years of the 1900’s. Father Dabrowski finished this school to help educate the immigrants of this once heavily populated Polish neighborhood.  

In 2015, Mayor Duggan announced a new development of an urban agricultural area named Recovery Park and a reuse of the Chene-Ferry outdoor market just north of St. Aubin and Forest.  The aim is to create job opportunities for those Detroiters working to recoup their lives after addiction and other personal struggles.  In a way, the spirit of Jozef [Joseph] Dabrowski is resurrected offering opportunity to those most in need.  No eye rolling, good to be hopeful. 🙂  Thanks for reading. ag

Former location: St. Aubin and Forest

POLISH PATRIOT, DETERMINED PRIEST

Jozef (Joseph) Dabrowski [1842-1903] was born in Zoltance, Poland into a wealthy family.  As a 12 year old, he assumed much of the familial responsibility when his father passed away.

Interested in math and science, he enrolled in Warsaw University on scholarships only to be sidelined by joining the failed Polish Revolt of 1863, an uprising against Russian rule over Poland.  Afterward, he heard the call of piety and Dabrowski headed for religious life in Rome.  He was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1869.

Continue reading “Father Jozef Dabrowski   – Park 76    “

Fred Nagle – Park 74

Here’s one from the GONE file.. Fred Nagle’s life and efforts stretched to many parts of Detroit – a boyhood home on High Street in Corktown; residence in the Madison – Lenox hotel; a boy’s club off Fenkell Avenue and  a long gone rec center and playground in the Elmwood neighborhood –  all of those haunts are gone.  The only thing left to his Detroit legacy is his burial marker in Mount Olivet Cemetery.  When I find it.. I will post a photo.

INVESTED IN DETROIT

Location:  Gone – Rec Center and playground formerly at Congress and Larned; Boys Boxing Club north of Focus Hope.

Fred George Nagle [1885- 1954] was a lifelong Detroiter and Corktown native who graced the halls of the Trinity School and Detroit College [now University of Detroit].  Nagel crafted a successful 25+ year real estate career with an office located in the Penobscot Building.  He managed his cadre of rentals, business locations and developed local strip shopping malls in the 1950’s.  The confirmed bachelor lived with his two sisters in the long gone Madison – Lenox Hotel off Harmonie Park.  

Fred Nagle
Fred Nagle was camera shy and a man of few photos. Photo: Detroit Parks and Recreation Annual Report for 1940.

Continue reading “Fred Nagle – Park 74”

Private John Kozdron – Park #50

Here’s one from the gone file.. when a playground disappears.

20 DAYS IN

The boyish John Kozdron off to fight in an unforgettable war. Photo courtesy VFW 4553. Thanks guys.
The boyish John Kozdron off to fight in an unforgettable war. Photo courtesy VFW 4553. Thanks guys.

Private John Kozdron was born on July 7, 1925.  He attended St. Hedwig High School in southwest Detroit graduating with honors in 1943.  Like many young men in the 1940’s, Kozdron was active in the Catholic Youth Organization.

A year later, John was inducted into the in US Army 9th Infantry, 6th Armored Division.  Basic training was received at Fort Hood, Texas and he shipped out to Europe on January 3, 1945.

Twenty days later on January 23, 1945, Private Kozdron died in the closing of the Battle of the Bulge.   Letters indicate he died a hero’s death.  He earned the Purple Heart and is buried at the American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg.

 A COMMUNITY COMES TOGETHER

John was just 19 at the end of his life.  He was recognized as the youngest man from his neighborhood to die in World War II.  In 1951, the veteran community united to remember John’s brief life by naming the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) Post 4553 in his honor.  

Post member John Czapski [chop-sky / free polish pronunciation lesson; you’re welcome ] built a fine post ‘home’ on the corner of Campbell Street and Plumer located near to Kozdron’s childhood home on Merritt .

The Vets and the Ladies Auxiliary of the Kozdron VFW line up in their finest while the post is adorned with the largest flag in the neighborhood.
The Veterans of 4553 and the Ladies Auxilary wearing their finest while the post is adorned with the largest flag in the neighborhood.
How the post looked in the 1960's
John Czapski built this building as well as two others on the adjacent corners of Plumer and Campbell. His signature touches were detailed brickwork and putting his name “Czapski” into the terrazo in the foyer.

 In 1956, Czapski along with Post Commander Louis Marmul petitioned the Detroit Department of Parks and Rec to dedicate a small play lot in Kozdron’s name.  After an initial denial and subsequent post appeal, the playground came to fruition later the same year.  For  three decades, the John Kozdron Memorial Play Lot was located across the street from the post and gave neighborhood kids a destination.  In the late 1980’s, the playground was deemed underused and a roofing manufacturer accepted the land transfer and built a storage facility on the site.  

Home base today at the corner of Campbell and Plumer.
Home base today at the corner of Campbell and Plumer.

While the park might be gone, the Kozdron VFW Post 4553 and Ladies Auxiliary are still active within the Southwest Detroit community.  With the Suchan brothers  leading the way, this post draws in everyone from regulars, neighbors to local politicians for a friendly beer, the occasional wake and camaraderie.  

The former site of the playground. Across the street from the post.
The former site of the playground. Across the side street from the post.

The overarching mission of VFW 4553 is to serve veterans and the surrounding community; members of the Kozdron Post keep this duty close to their hearts.  From their yearly fundraising efforts, they are able to send children to Camp Trotter in Grand Rapids; help St. Hedwig Church with financial support for Christmas giving, as well as providing holiday dinners to homeless vets and parties for kids.

The VFW 4553 John Kozdron Post is located at 2501 Campbell Street. Hours:  Wednesday  – Sunday Open at 3:00pm.  It’s off the beaten path and frankly, they prefer it that way. Stop in for a beer and a burger; it keeps John Kozdron’s memory alive and supports the surrounding Southwest Detroit community.  The stories are good and the veteran hospitality will exceed expectation.     

Thanks so much to the VFW 4553 for allowing me to spontaneously interrupt their Saturday [ i seem to be super good at that ] and for bringing the memories out of storage.  Photos used with kind permission from the VFW 4553.  Thanks again Suchan!

Map courtesy of Google.
Map courtesy of Google.

Have a great day.  Thanks for reading. © Andrea Gallucci, 2015 per the usual.

Louis Stone Memorial Pool and Park – 10

Earlier this year, I was featured on WDET for my story chronicling the life and happy times of Detroit druggist Louis Stone.  You can listen to it here.  Ever since I researched his story in 2013 there has been speculation that the property was sold to developers for housing.  Back in 2008, it was for sale – here’s the RFP with a bargain basement price of $300,000.

Here’s the scoop “unofficial / official” – Louis Stone Playground property is under contract to DTE for use as a substation to power the neighborhood.  Power is a good thing but so is legacy and history.  This is gonna sound so melodramatic.. Louis Stone brought so much fun, happiness and good times to Detroit kids and  parents .. the drugstore is long gone and if the playground is bulldozed; his legacy will be completely gone.  So play at this playground now.. and enjoy the uninterrupted Midtown electricity later.  Perhaps DTE can name the substation after Louis Stone.  It’s a little premature but I am moving this park to the gone file.  xo – ag

FILLING PRESCRIPTIONS FOR HAPPINESS

For 20+ years, druggist Leiba Stepansky [Louis Stone] had the biggest heart in Detroit.  Stone grew up the son of a prosperous shoe manufacturer; yet the poverty he witnessed in his native Russia made him acutely aware of the grim injustice of going without.

He left Russia when he was barred from medical school because he was a Jew.  At 18 years old, Louis landed in Boston alone and learned English.  He attended college and earned a degree as a pharmacist.

In 1925, he launched his career by moving to Detroit, taking a druggist job on East Jefferson in the “Little Bohemia” neighborhood.  Soon, he opened his own drug store at Mount Elliot and Theodore Streets, then moved to his home base of Third Street at Stimson Avenue near Detroit’s Masonic Temple.  His motto: “A happy child is a good child.”

stone 3

BEAUTY FROM TRAGEDY

Halloween night 1928, a young mother came into the pharmacy asking for something to calm her nerves.  Her son was struck and killed by car he didn’t see due to his mask.  This event was the game changer in Stone’s life.  It propelled him to create his famous Halloween street parties as a safe alternative to trick-or-treating.  The parties started with a handful of kids and erupted into entertainment events – including treats, tricks, bands, clowns –servicing 5000+ children on Halloween evening.  The festive environment helped to decrease juvenile delinquency in the city and raise the spirits of kids and parents alike.

NOSTALGIC WORDS  

Over the years, Stone also hosted events for needy children – trips to the beach; circus and baseball games.  Stone knew that kids “just needed to blow off steam sometimes”.  Regardless, each party ended in the same manner with the children all shouting a customary “OK Louie” in unison to signify the finale of the event.

a picture of a document
Getting permission from Detroit City Council to have a dance party..1949

HONORED AND LOVED

Stone received awards and honors from civic organizations, elected officials, religious institutions, as well as the State of Michigan legislature for his generosity, child advocacy, and creative problem solving. The Detroit Teacher’s Association planned to honor Stone with the first ever Distinguished Service Award.  Stone penned a thank you letter saying he would accept the award in person, and mailed the letter on the day he died, January 3, 1953.   Stone left no survivors.

A memorial service was held for the public outside Louis Stone Drugs complete with a Naval Salute, tributes, and flowers.  Over 3,000 children attended.  When the ceremony ended the children shouted their customary yell and they climbed aboard busses that whisked them away to the Shrine Circus.

On April 9, 1953 the Detroit City Council passed ordinance 728-E designating the Louis Stone Memorial Pool at Forest and Fourth Street to honor his unique contribution to Detroit.  The pool has been closed for many years. The small, tidy park serves as a stopping point for many walking through Midtown and is in good condition.   In spring 2013, news reports indicated this property has been sold for redevelopment.  When the pool and park are gone, I hope the City of Detroit can find a way to remember Louis Stone…  a generous man who created family amongst neighbors and friends.

Louie sure knew how to throw a great party.

He died a bachelor.  His friends are long gone.  When the park is turned into a DTE substation his legacy will completely disappear.
He died a bachelor. His friends are long gone. When the park is turned into a DTE substation his Detroit legacy will completely disappear.  Yeah, I put the rock on the stone.

Andrea Gallucci. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

Leonard Kerschke – Park #5

Taken Too Soon

It was a shock to me when the doctors told me that I had six months to live.  My first thought was of my family and then the thought flashed through my mind of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and what he said, Thy will be done, not mine”.    – Leonard Kerschke

March 1, 1957

Gentlemen – Leonard Kerschke, employed by the Department as a recreation instructor, has recently been advised by doctors that he suffering from cancer and has less than six months to live.

Mr. Kerschke, married and the father of two young children has been an efficient recreation instructor and a loyal employee and since his illness has displayed a remarkable spirit of cheerfulness in the face of overwhelming adversity.

The Department would like to recommend to your Honorable Body that the playlot located on the south side of Seven Mile Road between Chalmers and Celestine, which is the general neighborhood of his home, be named for Leonard Kerschke while he is yet alive, as a tribute to his admirable courage and spirit.

Respectfully submitted,

J. J. Considine

General  Superintendent

Lived and died on the eastside

Leonard was born on September 26, 1929.  He was a deep eastside Detroiter.  He attended the Detroit Institute of Musical Art; met his wife at Bethesda Missionary Temple; married at Immanuel Bible Church; began his career in the Detroit Parks and Recreation Dept. Shortly before Leonard passed, he began writing about his journey through cancer.  His article was picked up by the Associated Press; he received nationwide response and well wishes.  Leonard died on April 15, 1957 – he was 27 years old.

The small playlot bearing his name is still located on Seven Mile Road between Gratiot and Hayes Road.

Leonard F. Kerschke Playlot
Leonard F. Kerschke Playlot