PARK 81 – OSCAR B. MARX

BEGINNINGS OF A TRADITION:  THE DETROIT CITY CHRISTMAS TREE 

Oscar Marx was born on July 14, 1866 in Detroit.  His parents, Stephen Marx and wife Eleanor [Busch] were German immigrants turned dairy farmers living on the cusp of Hamtramck Twp. and Detroit.

The Marx farm faced Gratiot Road with acreage running north along Mount Elliot. It was quite close to the small town of St. Anthony which was annexed by Detroit in 1891.   Image:  Wayne County Atlas, 1876.
Stephen Marx makes front page news.  Apparently vehicle theft has always been a Detroit problem. Source:   1.31.1868, Detroit Free Press.

The hard work and discipline of his farm based upbringing along with a touch of seminary school gave Marx the determination needed to become a successful civic leader and Detroit businessman.   Continue reading “PARK 81 – OSCAR B. MARX”

Sam Greene – Park #68

I’ve been sitting on this story for a long time.. On this gorgeously sunny Detroit day I stopped by Greene Playground to take a snap of the park.  I met Curtis Green [same name as the park] and his friend Baxter.  We chatted a while and they pointed me in another [the right] direction to my next destination. A lucky day; Baxter has an El Camino [luv the El Camino] and you don’t see many of those outside the southwest.  Yes, it was a lucky day indeed; time well spent.  It’s the small things..  PS This one is for you too Tim Bailey of the Detroit Mower Gang because I know this is your favorite pocket park to mow.  It is a sweet park. ag

Sam Greene - Ellis and Robson - sweet and updated pocket park
Sam Greene – Ellis and Robson – sweet and updated pocket park

 

NATIONALLY KNOWN AND LIKED

How many people can be described like this?  A southern gentleman with a battered fedora, a grin, a dry laugh and a cigar that he smoked down until the ash smudged his lips.  This was Sam Greene.

greene photo 1935
Sam Greene, Detroit News, 1935. “He writes so vividly about the games that you feel yourself a spectator.” 

Continue reading “Sam Greene – Park #68”

Owen Francis Hammerberg – Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class – Park 26

THE PRIDE OF DAGGETT

Owen Hammerberg was born on May 31, 1920 in the small village of Daggett in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Owen Hammerberg Photo: Courtesy ancestry.com
Owen Hammerberg
Photo: Courtesy ancestry.com

Prior to service, Owen lived with his father downstate in Flint and worked as a shop clerk.  In 1941, he enlisted with the Navy as a diver, serving on both the Battleship USS Idaho and Sub Chaser USS Advent.  He attended Deep Sea Diving School in Washington DC in 1944 and eventually was assigned to the Pacific Fleet Salvage Force in Pearl Harbor, in the territory of Hawaii.  These experiences would prepare him for an assignment where his  bravery and skill would excel and consequently call his life to an abrupt end. Continue reading “Owen Francis Hammerberg – Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class – Park 26”

Bruce Wark, Sr. – Park 54

STRIKING IT RICH

Bruce Wark as featured in the City of Detroit Vol 5 1701-1922.
Bruce Wark as featured in the City of Detroit Vol 5 1701-1922.

Sometimes when you search far and wide, you end up finding your future right in the place where you began.  Ontario born Bruce Wark (b.1874-1944) came to Detroit in 1894 and began selling typewriters.  Without result, he chucked that career and spent the last two years of the nineteenth century as a prospector in the Klondike seeking a gold rush fortune.  Pardon the pun, it didn’t pan out.  When he returned to Detroit in 1900, he would find his fortune was waiting for him. Continue reading “Bruce Wark, Sr. – Park 54”

Abner A. Wolf – Park #48

 THE COURAGE TO START SOMETHING BIG

Abner A. Wolf (b.1892) came from humble beginnings.  At the age of 12, he began sweeping the floor in his father Joseph’s store, squeezing his homework into his free moments at work.  In 1912, he paid $50 for a cart and a horse.  He took his remaining $350 savings and purchased merchandise to start his own small grocery on Joseph Campau in Hamtramck.  He was twenty.  Within three years, he had enough money and customers to move to a bigger space across the street.  And so it began… Continue reading “Abner A. Wolf – Park #48”

Owen Francis Patrick Hammerberg – Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class – Park 26

THE PRIDE OF DAGGETT

Owen Hammerberg was born on May 31, 1920 in the small village of Daggett in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Owen Hammerberg  Photo: Courtesy ancestry.com
Owen Hammerberg
Photo: Courtesy ancestry.com

Prior to service, Owen lived with his father downstate in Flint and worked as a shop clerk.  In 1941, he enlisted with the Navy as a diver, serving on both the Battleship USS Idaho and Sub Chaser USS Advent.  He attended Deep Sea Diving School in Washington DC in 1944 and eventually was assigned to the Pacific Fleet Salvage Force in Pearl Harbor, in the territory of Hawaii.  These experiences would prepare him for an assignment where his  bravery and skill would excel and consequently call his life to an abrupt end.

His naval citation reads:  “Hammerberg by his cool judgement, unfaltering professional skill, and consistent disregard of all danger in the face of tremendous odds, had contributed effectively to the saving of his two comrades… he gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.”

NO HESITATION, JUST INTENSE SELF SACRIFICE

On February 17, 1945 Owen Hammerberg rescued two fellow divers trapped under the hulk of a mud bound sunken ship in Pearl Harbor.  After several hours of working in 40 feet deep, black water, Owen freed the first trapped man.  Without rest, he next moved far under the buried ship, reaching a spot above the second trapped diver.

A heavy piece of steel dropped on upon him and pinned him crosswise over his friend.  Bearing all the weight from the steel, Owen protected him until he could be freed.  Hammerberg later perished in a hospital.

 

park
A freshly mowed Hammerberg Memorial Playground – Detroit, MI

His parents – Jonas Hammerberg and Elizabeth Moss accepted the posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor on his behalf.  On August 19, 1954, his mother christened a destroyer escort named the USS Hammerberg to perpetuate the memory of his heroics.  This ship stayed in service short of two decades and was decommissioned and sold for scrap in December 1973.  Owen continues to be honored with two memorials – a Detroit playground at West Chicago and Wyoming; a memorial in Veterans Park in Stephenson, MI erected by VFW Post 5966.

ship at sea
USS Hammerberg photo: public domain

Fred Magnus Butzel – Parks 18 & 19

DETROIT’S MOST VALUABLE CITIZEN  

Fundamentally kind and understanding, he gave direct and extremely pointed criticism where he thought it would be helpful.  Though neglectful of his own health, he himself contributed and secured from others substantial funds for Detroit medical education and hospitals and made an enormous number of loans to enable college students to complete their education…There were many business and professional men who would not take a major financial step without his advice.. ”

 –  Julian Krolik (1887-1956) Detroit businessman and Jewish community leader on his friend Fred Butzel

THE IRONY AND THE PHILANTHROPY

Fred Butzel 1877-1948
Fred Butzel 1877-1948

Fred Butzel was admitted to the Michigan Bar in 1899 and soon after began a law firm with his brother called Butzel and Butzel.  The firm was large and successful,  but somehow Fred practiced law mainly for philanthropy and not the cash reward.  He had no social aspirations; however, there was no one more in demand to attend social events.

Butzel shunned both wealth and status.  As a philanthropist, it’s nearly impossible to list all the causes where he assisted or contributed.  He was an early advocate for the idea of childcare / foster care; organized the Boy Scouts in Detroit; taught English to new immigrants.  He attended more bar mitzvahs, engagement and wedding ceremonies – where officiated [and then often played piano] – than any other individual, anywhere.   Dedicated to his family, Fred changed colleges from University of MI to Detroit College of Law in order to read to his father whose eyesight was declining.

Knowledgeable and trusted, he sat of the board of directors for many Detroit entities –   foundations, banks, African American hospitals to automotive related businesses.  Strong in his faith, he spoke frequently at his home congregation of Temple Beth El, as well as orthodox and conservative synagogues who beckoned to hear his words.   As an attorney, he advised regular folks on establishing businesses to help strengthen Detroit and bring dreams to life.

In life and death, Butzel received many acknowledgements including honorary degrees; a building [on the left in photo}, an Israeli [then Palestine] forest, a Detroit Rec Center, school, and two Detroit parks bear his name.  Each year the Fred M. Butzel Memorial Award is presented to a Detroiter who exceeds in community service.

In 1947, the editorial director of the Detroit Free Press named him Detroit’s Most Valuable Citizen.

Detroit’s biggest supporter was lost on May 20, 1948 at the age of 70 years – Fred Butzel lived a life for the public good.

East Side Butzel Family Center and Grounds
West side park at Myers and Lyndon in Detroit
West side Rec Center at Myers and Lyndon in Detroit. The property includes an ice rink, ball fields, basketball courts and on. The ice rink is home to the Detroit Hockey Association and is named in memory of Jack Adams, a Canadian hockey player and coach / general manager of the Detroit Red Wings. Adams won the Stanley Cup as a player, coach and general manager.

 

©Andrea Gallucci 2013.  All rights reserved.