Hey – We’re gonna talk about the Nagels and the Nagles.. John and Fred. Similar pronunciation, same civic mindedness, totally different guys. Here’s the first installment. Thanks for reading. ag
In his obituary, John Conrad Nagel [1866 – 1935] was described as one of the most colorful members of Detroit politics. Born in September 1866 in Cleveland, Ohio. Travels in his younger days were along the Mississippi River for six years laboring as a cabin boy on tugs and ships. Nagel weathered storms and waited hand and foot on ship’s captains. He landed in Pensacola, Florida, became a blacksmith and migrated north to Detroit in 1892.Continue reading “John C. Nagel – Park 72”
The first thing I ever read about Walter Sak Playground was in a city report stating it was “a forlorn park in a forlorn neighborhood”. Little evidence of a playground remained when I first rolled by. The surrounding neighborhood was a mixed bag of hope and blight with some new construction and steadfast neighbors just trying to keep it all together.
— A while back, I helped to clean up Boyer playground with a group of volunteers. I met Kim Littlejohn that day and I told her I would find out for whom Boyer Park was named. It took a long while to find the story, but here it is Kim. Sorry no photo of Tom Boyer could be found.. maybe one will appear soon. Super good link about the long gone Wilbur Wright High School below – take a look. Thanks for reading. Ag
SINCERELY, EDITH BOYER JAN-29-1947
“There isn’t much of his civil life to tell. He died so young. He was born April 15, 1924 in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania. We brought him to Detroit on December 3, 1927. He attended Harms Grade School, Wilson Elementary School and he graduated from Wilbur Wright Trade School. He was a newspaper carrier when he was young. After graduation he worked as an apprentice at General Motors Research Laboratory. He was getting along fine there until he was drafted into the Army on February 25, 1943…
Here’s one from the gone file.. when a playground disappears.
20 DAYS IN
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 .
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.
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 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!