PFC. Eugene Charles McShane – Park #83

Location: Dumbarton and Ostego Streets

Hot, sunny McShane playground.

HE WAS JUST SWEET 

Gone too soon. Mac attended Detroit’s Wilbur Wright High School, a once elite school for those who intended to become engineers and dreamt of other skilled pursuits.

Eugene McShane [1923-1945] had two nicknames: Ginger and Mac. His sister as well as co-workers at the Ex-Cello Corporation reflected on McShane’s kindness when they learned of his death. “He was just sweet”, they remarked.  He was a big-hearted fellow who had enough love for every neighborhood stray cat and dog.  Mac tended to their needs, often nursing them back to health.

When WWII called for duty, his peers and family felt comfortable with his almost ‘perfect’ placement in an Army Medical Detachment unit. During 1943 & 1944, Mac found validation working in European war hospitals aiding the infirmed and the dying.

FIVE SHORT WEEKS AT THE FRONT

Fate would ultimately win, as Mac was re-assigned as a medic to the front lines. His life ended abruptly five weeks later on March 3, 1945. He was 21 years old.

While moving toward an injured soldier, McShane was hit by shrapnel. Disregarding his pain and circumstances, he continued on and administered aid to the downed soldier. Another artillery shell struck and he was killed instantly.

Posthumously, McShane earned the Purple Heart and Silver Star for his bravery in Germany. He’s interned in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield, MI.

Mrs. Mary McShane accepts her son’s posthumous awards of valor. DFP, 1945.

The playground named as Mac’s memorial was under an acre and acquired from State of Michigan scavenger land holdings. Residents felt more space was needed for older kids playing baseball, so the city obtained enough land to almost double the size of the green space that we enjoy today.

The Detroit City Council passed the ordinance to re-name Dumbarton Playground to Eugene McShane Memorial Playground in July 1952.

A TINY TRIBUTE

A second small memorial marker sits in Mac’s park honoring Arthur “Archie” Sills (1926-2003).  Sills was an attorney turned real estate investor and neighborhood landlord.


His standards and ethics were set to the high and the on position.  Raised in the neighborhood, he grew up on nearby Calvert Street.

Per his son Douglas Sills, “He never addressed anyone from ‘on high’, never thought he was innately better than anyone else, and he always helped people without anyone knowing about it.”    Source: Detroit Jewish News, 2003.

Sills was well-known in the Jewish community for his mentorship and his anonymous philanthropy. As a landlord in the Petoskey neighborhood, he chose to fight blight in Detroit and not own blight.  In 1962, the City of Detroit honored him for renovating a 42 unit Linwood apartment complex.  Tenants were offered an educational opportunity to learn about maintenance issues, upkeep and effective tenant – landlord communication skills.

Thanks for reading and learning more about Detroit.

©Andrea Gallucci, 2018.