Ira Waite Jayne – Park 51

“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.

Judge Jayne at the farm circa 1958. Courtesy of Toneron 2. I promise this image was not retouched.
Judge Jayne at the farm circa 1958. Image: Wikipedia Courtesy of Toneron 2. CC.

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.

oh gosh there's a post in the middle of this photo.
oh gosh there’s a post in the middle of this photo.  it must have been super cold that day.

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.

Pretty and cold at Jayne Field.
Pretty and cold at Jayne Field.

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.

jayne_map_courtesy_of_google

 

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”

Willis Watts O’Hair aka Mrs. Walter R. O’Hair  – Park #42

 

 “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.   

Willis Watts O'Hair Photo: 1945 Annual Report
Willis Watts O’Hair
Photo: 1945 Annual Report

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’Hair became 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.  

Pretty spring day at O’Hair. Sorry about the garbage in this picture.. it’s long gone now. The neighborhood association is super tight and works hard to keep O’Hair and the surrounding area tidy.

 

A big park for a woman who positively impacted Detroit. Map via Google.
A big park for a woman who had a huge and positive impact on Detroiter’s with recreation. Map via Google.

 

Looking west toward the park and Pitcher Woods.
Looking west toward the park and Pitcher Woods.

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 association that works hard to keep this community safe and vibrant.

Detail on Pitcher Elementary School exterior.
Detail on Pitcher Elementary School exterior.

©Andrea Gallucci, 2014.  All rights reserved.  Thanks for reading.

PFC. Walter Josefiak, Jr. – Park 41

BEST FRIENDS IN WARTIME 

Walter Josefiak Jr. and his siblings Robert, Harry, John and Geraldine were raised as eastsiders on Fairport Street.  Walter graduated from Detroit’s De LaSalle Collegiate in 1942 and enlisted in the US Marines for the WWII effort.  He was assigned to Camp Lejeune, home to the War Dog Training Center in North Carolina. Here he trained as a soldier and dog handler with the Marine 3rd War Dog Platoon.  Rusty, a faithful Doberman Pinscher would become his protector and best friend during his days on Guam and Iwo Jima.  They shipped out for the fight in the Asiatic Campaign from Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA.

A freshman at De La Salle, Walter is in the center of the photo. He played in the high school band and graduated in June 1942. Photo courtesy of De La Salle Collegiate.
Walter is pictured here as a freshman at De La Salle, He is in the center of the photo with the dark tie. Walter played in the high school band and graduated in June 1942.
Photo courtesy of the De La Salle Collegiate Pilot.

War dogs were used by both the Allies and the Japanese in WWII.  The dogs varied by breed and were specifically trained to scout, guard, attack, carry messages, detect underground land mines and trip wires.  They were an important part of the Asiatic campaign and a  contributing factor to the liberation of Guam in 1944.  Additionally they had their own cemetery and were assigned rank.  Rusty was a Corporal.

SURVIVAL THEN RETURN FIRE

On March 22, 1945, Walter and Rusty were leading a patrol on Iwo Jima searching for snipers.  Scouting about 15 feet ahead of the unit, they were first to sniff out two hidden Japanese soldiers.  Josefiak shot the first soldier; his rifle then jammed and he won the fight in hand-to-hand combat with the second soldier.
A short time later,  the duo continued up along a ledge to the mouth of a cave where several enemy snipers were holed up.

Josefiak began firing but was downed and wounded from return fire.  Fulfilling his duty, Rusty guarded his master, staying between Josefiak and the snipers.  The Japanese began to throw hand grenades; Rusty was hit full force. Seriously wounded, Rusty crawled to Josefiak’s side to protect him while grenades continued to blast around the pair.  In the meantime, Marines in the unit threw a rope to Josefiak and pulled him to safety.  Regardless of his wounds, Josefiak refused to be immediately evacuated and ordered others to remain under cover until the enemy soldiers were annihilated.  He was later taken to a battalion hospital where he died.  Lt. William Taylor, the commanding officer of the unit, noted that Corporal Rusty died as well, ‘on the scene without a whimper’.

 

josefiak
I passed this park in Winter of 2013, a year later [unfortunately] the fence was gone.
Josefiak Playground - spring of 2014 needing a mow.
Josefiak Playground – spring of 2014 needing a mow.

Walter Josefiak Jr. earned the Silver Star posthumously for his assertive nature in combat and courage.  He was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery with a full Marine military salute.  The small playground honoring him is stocked with newer equipment.  It is located on Grenier St. near Fairport – around the block from the Josefiak‘s childhood home.  In 2014, it was adopted by volunteers and was well tended during the warm Detroit weather.

Thanks so much to the Josefiak family and John Monigold of De La Salle Collegiate for their assistance with remembering Walter’s story.

 

Josefiak Playground on Grenier. Beautiful Mount Olivet Cemetery on the left. Map courtesy of Google.
Josefiak Playground on Grenier. Beautiful Mount Olivet Cemetery on the left. Assumption Grotto Parish [right] Walter’s funeral services were held. The Josefiak family remains supportive of this parish. Map courtesy of Google.
All rights reserved.  Copyright Andrea Gallucci, 2015.

Minerva Maiullo – Park 39

THE GATEWAY TO BOSTON EDISON

“Like the famous Flemish tapestries that tell stories, we are the weavers, the creators of the patterns in our own lives,” wrote Minerva Maiullo in her 1972 memoir, A Tapestry of Memories.

There’s a handful of parks in Detroit honoring the lives of women.. Here’s one of them.

Minerva Maiullo’s life was filled with culture, elegance, art and philanthropy. Born in Ontario, Canada in October 1891, genealogical accounts trace her ancestral line to the royal Etruscan House of Tarquin whose kings ruled Rome hundreds of years before Caesar.

The lovely Minerva Maiullo on the cover of her 1970’s book. Photo credit: Ebay / A.S. Barnes Publishing

Her parents were both musically gifted. Minerva followed suit with demonstrated talents in song composition and voice training that prepared her for an operatic life. In 1925 she performed the role of Nedda in Il Pagliacci in Verona, Italy as an operatic debut. Regardless of professional praise and promise, Minerva chose familial instinct and married her childhood sweetheart, Anthony Maiullo. Together, they raised a family in Detroit’s grand Boston-Edison neighborhood.

 

The Maiullo’s led a busy and charmed life. Minerva was well known as Detroit’s cultural hostess. She entertained many celebrities at her once famous salons. She sang only at benefit performances and for close friends. A Detroit club woman, her philanthropic efforts included involvement with The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, DIA Founder’s Society, Detroit Grand Opera Association, Women’s City Club, Detroit Historical Society, Friends of the Detroit Public Library and on.

Welcome to historic Boston Edison
Welcome to historic Boston Edison

She was awarded a citation from the US War Department for founding and organizing the “Adopt a Soldier’s Son” program during WWII.

Her husband, Anthony Maiullo (1886-1976) was a prominent criminal and corporate Detroit attorney who once survived an assassination attempt when answering his front door. The Maiullo’s were benefactors of Detroit Institute of Arts, gifting sculpture to the museum.

WHO KNEW THESE WERE NAMED PARKS?

Two lots flank the entrance to Boston Edison neighborhood at Woodward and Chicago Blvd.  North lot
Two lots flank the entrance to Boston Edison neighborhood at Woodward and Chicago Blvd. North lot

 

 

South lot looking toward Woodward.  Nothing more than well mowed grass and a bus stop.  A nice green space though.
South lot looking toward Woodward. Nothing more than well mowed grass and a bus stop. A nice green space.

 

During the 1960’s, Anthony donated two lots at the corner of Chicago Boulevard and Woodward to the city of Detroit naming them “Minerva Maiullo Parks” in honor of his wife.

Today, these lots are unmarked and provide a buffer green space to the entrance of this historic Detroit neighborhood.  Minerva Maiullo passed in May 1973; she is buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Southfield, MI.

 

Historic Boston Edison neighborhood outlined in red. The address of prominent Detroiter’s. Maiullo park flanks Chicago at Woodward. The larger green space is Voigt Park. Map courtesy of Google.
 copyright 2015, andrea gallucci.

SSGT. BERNARD DOUGLAS SASSER – PARK #38

Yet another story of bravery and sacrifice .. I hope you aren’t tired.. we have a long way to go.. andrea

DETROIT’S ADOPTED SON

The first time we went to Sasser was obviously in the winter; we didn't want to interrupt the 'commerce' happening in the park..so we left.
The first time we went to Sasser was obviously in the winter. ‘Commerce’ was happening in the park..so we left.

Bernard Sasser [1920-1945] was a courageous man; one who exemplified leadership and duty before self.  He is honored with a large and well used memorial park nestled between Harper [I-94 service drive] and Lanark Street on Detroit’s east city limits.  This park was slated to be closed back in 2013 when funds in Detroit dried up.  Sasser Playground was well kept when we visited in the summer of 2014 – baseball games, football practice was in full session and the park was full of kids and parents. Good times.

MINDING THE FIELDS

Staff Sargeant Bernard Sasser Photo: Detroit Free Press, 1945
Staff Sargeant Bernard Sasser
Photo: Detroit Free Press, 1945

Sasser enlisted to serve in World War II.  He was assigned to Army Company G, 222nd Infantry Regiment, 42nd Infantry Division and where he rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant.  During a February 1945 watch near Alsace, France, he observed a patrol of US soldiers attempting to cross through a mine field he had previously scouted.  Sasser voluntarily guided the group through the field for safe passage. Upon completion the patrol came under heavy enemy fire.  He took command and moved to the head of the squad where he was struck by bullets and grenade fragments when attempting to sieze an enemy machine gun.  He protected this patrol of soldiers outside of his own company from harm’s way and died while missing in action.  Sasser earned the Silver Star posthumously for his gallantry. 

Three years before that dark fateful night, he moved to Detroit with his mother Anne settling in on Strasburg Street.  A bachelor with few ties to our city, he became an adopted son.  A native of Massachusetts, he is buried in St. Bernard’s Cemetery in Fitchburg, MA.  

Sasser's military issue grave in MA. Photo credit: Bill Bourbeau
Sasser’s military issue grave in MA. Photo credit: Bill Bourbeau

 

Sasser was busy when we returned. All the busy is behind us in the photo. Then I lost part of my key ring and KT found it. It was a gorgeous evening in Detroit.
It was great to find the dedication plaque intact. Sasser was busy when we returned in better weather. All the busy is behind us in the photo. It was a gorgeous evening in Detroit.

Bringard – Boulder Playground Park 37

I meet a lot of kind and generous people when researching parks.  They come in the form of people who live in the neighborhood and start talking to me; folks I meet through online databases and those who contact me because they enjoy reading this blog.  I found this tiny story while randomly flipping through the card catalog at Detroit Public Library.  Little did I realize it would be tied to a Detroit Park. 

card catalog

It was just a small clipping glued to a card.  I read it and snapped the photo because I thought it was a really cool story of days gone by.  A time that would never return. I could easily imagine this couple living in the woods; it felt romantic.  I laughed with gratefulness 8 months later when I realized I could connect it to a playground.  Continue reading “Bringard – Boulder Playground Park 37”

Jan A. Brookins – Park 35

ALL AROUND GOOD KID

Jan Brookins attended Detroit’s  Denby High school where he ran track. He was known around the neighborhood as a fair-minded and sportsmanlike teenager.  He often planned activities and refereed games for the neighborhood kids at the play lot next to his house.  Frederick and Jean Brookins moved into the east side neighborhood  at Rossiter and Grayton when Jan was a baby in 1940.

 

The Brookins old homestead on Rossiter.
The Brookins former homestead on Rossiter.

 

Jan Brookins Memorial Playground.  Nice sycamore.
Jan Brookins Memorial Playground. Nice sycamore.

 WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

In early September 1957, Jan and his friend Gary were practicing on the outdoor high school track at Denby High School when a thunderstorm hit.  As they began running towards the locker room, Brookins was struck in the chest by a bolt of lightning.  He was dead on arrival at Saratoga General Hospital.  He was 17.

On January 15, 1959, the Detroit Common Council passed an ordinance to designate the empty lot next to the Brookin’s house as the “Jan A. Brookins Memorial Playground”.   This small but tidy neighborhood playground is still used in 2014.  A large sycamore anchors the corner of the playground which is stocked with newer play equipment.  It seems that being struck by lightning is a freakish occurrence, yet National Geographic reports the odds of being the victim of a US lightning strike [during a one year period] are 1 in 700,000.   Detroit lost a gem of a teenager that September day.

 

Wintertime at the park.  I don't know why but I always go by this one when I am eastside.
Wintertime at the park. I don’t know why but I always go by this one when I am east side.
Truly Eastside. Brookins Playground is close to Denby HS [tan square] and Skinner Park [see post #xx.  Sasser is on the far right - we feature him soon.  Map per Google.
Truly Eastside. Brookins Playground is close to Denby HS [tan square] and Skinner Park [See story on Park #4] . Sasser is on the far right – we feature him soon. Map courtesy of Google.
Copyright Andrea Gallucci, 2014.

President ‘Pres’ Collins Playlot – Park 34

BORN WITH THE RIGHT NAME 

President “Pres”  Collins was born on September 7, 1892 in Hurtsboro, Alabama.  His family made the move to Detroit around 1918 where he furthered his education and became an outspoken voice for his eastside neighborhood.

Talbot Street was the longtime home of Pres and Alice Collins and their 9 children.  He served as a precinct delegate to state political conventions and was active in his church. When old timers from the neighborhood passed away, he would solicit donations from folks in the area on behalf of the grieving family. 

TAKING ON CITY HALL

Collins organized the Buffalo-Mound-Talbot-Caniff Block Club and served as its president.  When Tri-City Sanitation, Inc. attempted to convince the city of Detroit to re-zone property in his neighborhood, Pres took action.  With the support of City Councilwoman MaryAnn Mahaffey, Collins and his group were successful defeating the proposed industrialization.   Eventually, the site was turned into the Mound – Alpena playlot to benefit neighborhood kids.   

Collins retired from the Skilled Trades division of Ford Motor in 1959.  He died on February 25, 1980.  The Mound – Alpena playlot was renamed Pres Collins Playground on January 27, 1982. Today, it is a large grassy area with older basketball courts.  This playground lacks fencing and signage but when it gets mowed, it’s a lovely greenspace.  The surrounding neighborhood has undergone positive redevelopment with newer built townhouses across from the park.  

Pres Collins Playlot .. looking good in the fall. Newer townhouses front Talbot Street.
Pres Collins Playlot .. looking good in the fall. Newer townhouses front Talbot Street.

 

 

collins_park_
Located where Mound runs into Mount Elliot.
copyright 2014 Andrea Gallucci 

Biraga Memorial Playground – Park 33

Corporal William Anthony Biraga

On December 26, 1943 William Anthony Biraga was serving with Company I, Third Battalion, First Marines Division in WWII. He was up against Japanese forces in the Battle of Cape Gloucester on the island of New Britain, a territory of New Guinea in the South Pacific. The objective of this battle was to capture a major Japanese airfield on the island as well as set up safe passage for Allied Forces through the straits separating New Guinea from the island of New Britain. The code name for this fierce battle was Operation Cartwheel; it began in mid-December 1943 and ran through April 1944.

Biraga Memorial Playground fronting Mount Elliot. Super cute.
Biraga Memorial Playground fronting Mount Elliot. Super cute.
This concrete base with dedication plaque was used to support the flagpole at the original park.  It was moved to the new play area.
This concrete base with dedication plaque was used to support the flagpole used in the original park. It was moved to the new park.

DUTY BEFORE SELF

Corporal Biraga led a group of six men behind a General Sherman tank in an assault against Japanese pillboxes [a fortified trench with a keyhole or loophole to fire weapons]. During this battle, Biraga became severely wounded, however he continued to direct his men against the enemy pillboxes until they were put out of action.

Biraga was evacuated to a waiting LST-453 [ Tank Landing Ship – an amphibious boat] where he died while headed to 362nd Station Hospital at Oro Bay, New Guinea. He was initially interred at the US Military Cemetery in Soputa, New Guinea then transferred home to Detroit for re-burial in Mount Olivet cemetery.

 

LSTs were often used to carry weapons and mainstay supplies.  This photo is not the LST-453 but is similar.  The boat can land on ungroomed shoreline. The hull opens up and the tanks roll out.  Public domain photo.  Thanks Canada.
LSTs were often used to carry weapons and mainstay supplies. This photo is not the LST-453 but is similar. The boat can land on ungroomed shoreline. The hull opens up and the tanks roll out. Public domain photo. Thanks Canada.

 

An up close and personal look at the Battle of Gloucester taken by a field soldier photographer.  Public domain photo.
An up close and personal look at the Battle of Gloucester taken by a field soldier photographer. Public domain photo.

Biraga Memorial playground was dedicated in 1952 and was originally on Dwyer Street near the convergence of Detroit and Hamtramck. Biraga lived with his Polish immigrant parents on Comstock Street about 10 blocks north. Recently, the playground was revamped and incorporated into a newer apartment complex built on the same property. Fronting Mount Elliot, this new, tidy playground offers kids in a great place to play while keeping the memory of William Biraga alive.

 

Map courtesy of Google.  Hamtramck is to the left of the RR tracks.
Map courtesy of Google. Hamtramck is to the left of the RR tracks.

 

 

Private John T. Yaksich – Park 32

So from what I hear and overhear.. I think this park got an upgrade or new signage over the summer.  There is always a lot of confusion about how to spell the Yaksich name.  Someone actually thanked me for spelling it correctly.  Ahhh.. it’s just the small things that make me happy.    I haven’t trolled through this neighborhood lately so I will have to make it a destination to take another photo.  ag

ONE MAN BLITZ

This neighborhood park is sandwiched between Anglin and Brinker Streets north of Nevada on Detroit’s east side.  Unfortunately, it is devoid of all signage to point to the heroics of John T. Yaksich, a courageous WWII hero. Conant Gardens, a historic and permanent African American Detroit neighborhood is nearby.  See photos below.

 

John Yaksich, 1943
John Yaksich, 1943 Photo: DPL RRF unknown primary source 

By February 9th 1943, newspaper headlines were screaming:

JAPS ADMIT DEFEEAT IN THE SOLOMON ISLANDS; the nation could partly thank Private Yaksich.

As a Marine in the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division at the Guadalcanal, he became known as “The One Man Blitz” for singlehandedly capturing Japanese weaponry and his courageous fighting which earned him the Navy Cross.  

At his own will and under heavy fire, Yaksich overtook a Japanese machine gun operator and subsequently captured his weapon.  Before killing the gunner, he saw hand-to-hand combat with two other Japanese soldiers and bayoneted them both.

Figuring he may become overpowered by additional enemy soldiers, he returned to his own front line and refreshed his cache of weapons/ ammunition.  Secretly, he worried about being reprimanded by his platoon leader for leaving camp without permission. 

“I knew that if I had asked to go they wouldn’t let me,” commented Yaksich. “So I told my buddy to give the word when I was .. to far to be called back to camp.”  Upon his return, Yaksich requested volunteers to help him carry the enemy machine gun back to the front lines.  A friend named Billy ‘Red Dog’ Van Orden stepped up to assist.  The Marines returned to the field and captured a second machine gun Van Orden had spotted.  Recalled Yaksich, “Van Orden shot the gunner.  We picked up the machine gun and ran.  Snipers tried to get us, but we were lucky.  Van Orden was magnificent.”

John T. Yaksich was born on April 7, 1922 and was released from service in November 1943.  It was  a hard road returning to civilian life but he made it through WWII and felt lucky in doing so.  He died on January 23, 1991.  He is one of the few Detroiters to be honored with a memorial park during his living years.

yackish
Yaksich Memorial Playfield lacks play equipment yet is well kept.
yak_conant_map
The red dotted area is the Conant Gardens neighborhood – important part of Detroit’s African American history.

 

conant garden2
Historical marker [located at the corner of Nevada and Conant]about how this important neighborhood came to exist.
All rights reserved. ©Andrea Gallucci, 2015.

Redmond Plaza – Park 27

Robert Rene Redmond

GOOD NEWS UPDATE:

12/2014 A collective sigh of relief swept over Cass Corridor in latter December…  Per Detroit news source Bridge MichiganRedmond Plaza is receiving a new lease on life as the non-profit Midtown Detroit, Inc. has started renovations to this sweet little plaza. Look for some updated photos sans that sexy chain link fencing soon..  Thanks to veteran reporter Bill McGraw for the link out to Cityliterate.  

Little Gem in Cass Corridor

Redmond Plaza is a small community park located at the corner of Selden Street and Second in Midtown Detroit. It features a gazebo, bench seating, brickwork and mature trees. It was a favorite gathering spot for many folks in the Cass neighborhood until it was fenced off more than a year ago. Neighbors speculate Redmond Plaza was purchased by the owners of the adjacent, boarded commercial property which bears a sign Samona Building / Real Estate.

Robert Redmond Plaza -  hands through fence to get the interior of the park
Robert Redmond Plaza – hands through fence to get the interior of the park

 

The Plaza pays homage to Robert Rene Redmond, a social worker and director of the neighborhood Senior Center. Robert worked alongside his father, Reverend Lewis Redmond [pastor of the Cass Methodist Episcopal Church] to boost the lives of residents living in Detroit’s Cass Corridor with special focus on seniors and the developmentally disabled. Their work changed lives for the better; it also set the foundation for the future social work at Cass Community Social Services.

 

On May 6, 1976 Robert Redmond was shot to death when trying to disarm a friend in a nearby apartment on 3rd Street. He was 24 and a doctoral student at Oakland University.

Rev. Lewis Redmond pastored here from 1953 - 1979.  A block away from Redmond Plaza. Photo courtesy of Cass Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church.
Rev. Lewis Redmond pastored here from 1953 – 1979. A block away from Redmond Plaza. Photo courtesy of Cass Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church.

The groundbreaking of Redmond Plaza in early August 1979 drew more than 100 people. Construction of the park was paid with federal funding. Senator David Holms of MI commented, “I’m 100 percent for this park! It’s long overdue. Cass Corridor is the cosmopolitan of Detroit. It is Detroit as Detroit is”.
Cass Corridor has come a long way – it’s cleaner and slowly becoming redeveloped. Thirty –five years later, this stretch of midtown is still home to a slice of Detroit folks – the homeless, the educated, the entrepreneurial, families, seniors as well as university students – a blend that mixes well together.