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.
As far as I know, he’s the only man who gets his name listed in the telephone book as ‘Dad’.
– George Stark, beloved Detroit News Columnist, 1948
Dad Butler’s incredible athletic ability set him ahead of the pack; a strong and homey nickname became his brand. Butler simply didn’t want to be missed. His response to Stark’s commentary: “That’s to make it easy for the lads to find me. They come from all over America, you know, and if they happened to be looking for me, I wouldn’t want them to miss the name, in all that fine print.”Continue reading “Michael Herbert “Dad” Butler – Park 61″
“Hell, I am not one of those starry eyed reformers, but I can get things done.” – Ira Waite Jayne
APPOINTMENT AFTER APPOINTMENT
In 1915, Ira Jayne became Detroit’s first recreation commissioner appointed by Mayor Oscar Marx. Ira was an avid sportsman, earning varsity letters in track, baseball and football at the University of MI. He also had a brief career as a pitcher in the Ohio Valley Baseball League.
He got ‘things done’ during the 1910’s when funding recreation was wanted by the public, yet unpopular with politicians. With creative means, he built up recreation programs in schools, libraries, settlements and museums instead of trying to fund building construction and purchase land. The Detroit City Council refused to give Jayne money toward existing playground development, so he roped off streets for boys and girls to play in. Fierce yet justified behavior.
Recreation work was a good fit; however Jayne aspired to a higher public service. An attorney by trade, he ran for a Wayne County Circuit court judge post and lost by recount to Harry Dingeman [his park is west side behind Chadsey HS] . A few years later he would be appointed to the Court Circuit bench by Governor Albert Sleeper and Ira Jayne’s recreation career was over.
FRIEND OF THE UNDERDOG
Some accounts of Judge Ira Jayne describe him as stern faced and domineering; however those who knew him best saw this facade as a tactic to keep lawyers from owning his courtroom. In a nutshell, Judge Jayne was a friend of children, labor, the poor and those seeking divorce.
As a Detroit attorney, he represented the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. In 1910, he organized the Children’s Aid Society and continuing as its main attorney until 1915. Ultimately, Jayne helped to establish the Friend of the Court system. He approved of liberal divorce laws that elevated women from lives of ‘indignity’ while still discouraging divorce.
Ira Jayne became Chief Judge in Detroit Circuit Court in 1929 where he made national news by streamlining a four year backlog on the docket with the use of visiting judges. He served in this position for 27 years. In 1951, he ended a 59 day strike by Detroit streetcar and bus drivers. He upheld a law that made the strike illegal, next he held the City of Detroit responsible for the strike noting that the mayor’s representatives ignored an early willingness by labor to meet and work out bargaining issues.
Ira Waite Jayne was active on his farm in Fenton, MI until his death in 1961. Jayne Road in Fenton is named for his family. He was married and had three children.
Judge Jayne is memorialized with a substantial 47 acre park/field south of the Davison off Conant and Luce Streets. It features a walking path, several baseball diamonds, fields for soccer / football and a windy 9 hole disc golf course that according to disc golfers in 2015 could use some love. Lots of parking and a concessions stand. Jayne Field sides to the Bernard Lasky Playground / Recreation Center which is still in great shape but now closed. The grounds offer basketball courts and ample parking. Overall, these park areas are well groomed. We’ll discuss Bernard Lasky shortly.
“Life is so fast paced today that good use of leisure time is essential to mental health”
– Willis Watts O’Hair
IT’S GOOD TO HAVE A WOMAN IN CHARGE
Alice, Viola, Minerva, Willis… They all had distinctive names; they were / are distinctive women. In this post, we are working through the women honored with a park.. there are a few more after this one.. Lotta, Delores, Clara, Erma.. brilliant names. andreag
In 1940, the Detroit Department of Parks and Boulevards merged with the Detroit Department of Parks and Recreation to reduce redundant efforts and financial waste. A new commission was formed to oversee the new solo Department of Parks and Recreation.
Mrs. Willis Watts O’Hair was appointed to this commission by Mayor Edward Jeffries; importantly, she was the first woman to become the president of a Detroit city commission. Ultimately, she would serve four terms before her death in 1959.
Under her guidance, Detroit parks experienced enormous growth through improved services. New offerings included: supervised tot lots, installation of shuffleboard courts, 9 artificial ice rinks [her idea], an indoor / outdoor city pool, competitive sports leagues for teens; horticulture activities, arts and crafts for all ages and on.
O’Hair was a booster for free band and symphony concerts arranged by Parks and Rec. Her pet project was the installation of a putting green and golf driving range on Belle Isle. The driving range was popular and financially successful; the commission opened another in Rouge Park. During her tenure, Detroit rose from 7th place for recreation honors to 1st place nationally.
Mrs. O’Hair always maintained that recreation centers should be within walking distance of residential areas. “The greatest need is in the congested areas,” she said in 1953, then adding, “There is no greater thrill for me than to see youngsters enjoying themselves.”
Prior to the commission appointment, O’Hair raised funds for the support of the March of Dimes and founded the Women’s Auxiliary of the Volunteers of America. She enjoyed bridge and the theater. In 1943, she received an honorary degree in Sociology from the Detroit Institute of Technology. Willis Watts was married to attorney Walter O’Hair. They had 3 children. Her son John Dennis Watts O’Hairbecame the Wayne County Prosecutor.
Willis often said, “You get back what you give out” and she lived these words assisting others throughout her life. Overall, Willis Watts O’Hair was a hands-on Parks and Recreation Commissioner taking interest in boxing matches and other sporting events, as well as trying some of the programs out herself. Above all, she was always a lady.
O’Hair Park located at Stahelin and Hessel Street is a staggering 78 acres which includes 20 acres of forest. The land was donated to the city by Joseph and Helen Holtzman in 1947. Pitcher Woods honors Dr. Zina Pitcher, Mayor of Detroit 1840-1844. Pitcher greatly influenced the State of Michigan to pass a law for the first free public school in Detroit and helped create the Medical Department at the University of Michigan. The nearby Pitcher School is now closed. The surrounding subdivision has a strong neighborhood associationthat works hard to keep this community safe and vibrant.
“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.
J. J. Considine
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.