Location: Dumbarton and Ostego Streets
Sometimes parks tell their own story..
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”
I have attempted at all times, where even the slightest reason for doing what was present, to put defendants on probation. Where a man is a habitual criminal then, of course, probation is impossible, but wherever probation would improve a man’s prospects for the future, he has been thus placed…it can save many from the lives of misery and crime.“ Judge Harry Keidan (1882-1943)
TRUSTED AS A ONE MAN GRAND JURY
A great debater at Eastern High school, Keidan’s peers found his calm and logical approach as a clear sign he would eventually wear judge’s robes. And so, it would be. By 1904, Harry was admitted to the bar and started a private law practice. In 1912, he became Wayne County Assistant prosecutor; 1920 marked his appointment as a judge.
Locally, Keidan was known for his genuine concern for the defendants that appeared before him. Having a keen sense of humor and the utmost patience, Judge Keidan once gave a unsatisfied litigant a half glass of water and two ‘common sense’ pills when he refused to accept a court recommended monetary settlement. The litigant was instructed to sit at the rear of the courtroom for 40 minutes for ‘the pills to kick in’ while the next case was heard.
Keidan helped draft the bill creating Detroit’s first Recorder’s Court stressing the probation department as an important attachment. In 1927, Governor Fred W. Green appointed him to Detroit Circuit Court where he won praise for resolving labor and civic disputes. He was re-elected to this position three times. Keidan was nationally known for being selected as a one-man Grand Jury during the Detroit Bank scandal of 1929.
In his personal life, Harry Keidan was a member of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue in Detroit. He was a deeply religious man who observed the Sabbath. He walked to the courthouse if a Saturday morning session was required. Harry was an active steward to the Boy Scouts, the Jewish Welfare Federation and Goodwill Industries. He was married to Kate and had 2 children.
At the time of his death in 1943, the Detroit City Council passed a resolution stating, “A judge who never condemned; a counselor who never berated; a critic who never scorned – that was Judge Keidan.” He was interned at Clover Hill Cemetery in Birmingham, MI.
Harry Keidan was honored with a Detroit elementary school [on Collingwood near Petoskey]; a Hillel Chapter, A B’nai Brith Lodge and a city playground as a memorial to his legacy. The small park is behind the Clinton Street Greater Bethlehem Temple on Chicago Boulevard. It is fenced and stocked with older functioning playground equipment.
All rights reserved. Copyright, Andrea Gallucci, 2015.
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 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 2 Detroit Rec Centers, a 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. It’s good to remember him.
©Andrea Gallucci 2019. All rights reserved.
2nd Lt. Raymond Zussman
THE NAVY GOT IT WRONG
The football coach at Central High School laughed when Raymond Zussman showed up to try out for the team. The Navy rejected Zussman for being too short. They both got it wrong.
The small statured Zussman wore the attitude “I kin take care of myself.” He did and more. He protected the innocent of WWII and took care of a large number of Nazi soldiers as well. His personal, undaunted courage and can-do attitude made him a WWII fighting powerhouse earning him the Medal of Honor.
Ray Zussman was raised in Hamtramck. He sang in his synagogue’s choir. After high school, he became a shop steward with local union #337. When WWII broke out, he turned to US Army who recognized his spirit. He became an instructor in street fighting at Fort Knox and a tank commander with the 756th Tank Battalion.
FEEL THE ADRENALINE RUSH
Zussman saw action and was wounded in the battle of Cassino, Italy. After recovery, he was reassigned to active duty crossing from France into Germany. Zussman’s tank became disabled in battle at the Village of Noroy-le-Bourg, France. Here’s what his military citation reads:
On 12 September 1944, 2d Lt. Zussman was in command of two tanks operating with an infantry company in the attack on enemy forces occupying the town of Noroy-le-bourg, France.
At 7:00 P.M., his command tank bogged down. Throughout the ensuing action, armed only with a carbine, he reconnoitered alone on foot far in advance of his remaining tank and the infantry. Returning only from time to time to designate targets, he directed the action of the tank and turned over to the infantry the numerous German soldiers he had caused to surrender.
He located a road block and directed his tanks to destroy it. Fully exposed to fire from enemy positions only 50 yards distant, he stood by his tank directing its fire. Three Germans were killed and eight surrendered.
Again he walked before his tank, leading it against an enemy-held group of houses, machine-gun and small-arms fire kicking up dust at his feet. The tank fire broke the resistance and 20 enemy surrendered. Going forward again alone he passed an enemy-occupied house from which Germans fired on him and threw grenades in his path.
After a brief firefight, he signaled his tank to come up and fire on the house. Eleven German soldiers were killed and 15 surrendered. Going on alone, he disappeared around a street corner. The fire of his carbine could be heard and in a few minutes he reappeared driving 30 prisoners before him. Under 2d Lt. Zussman’s heroic and inspiring leadership, 18 enemy soldiers were killed and 92 captured.
Think about that.. who does that? He was a major badass. I can only imagine the adrenaline running through his veins.
Unfortunately, Ray met death a few days after these heroics; killed in action in another battle on September 21, 1944.
Ray’s namesakes were many: A US military ship, a veteran’s post, a private library, and two parks were named in his honor. His Detroit Park at Dexter and Davison was dedicated on July 17, 1951. Today, this tidy park serves the neighborhood well with newer playground equipment, basketball court, and picnic shelter. A few summer’s back, I noticed a rolling popcorn machine/cart in the park mid-day.
Zussman is also honored with a Hamtramck park bordered by Evaline, Winfield, and Yemans Streets.
The Jewish War Veterans Raymond Zussman Post #510 continues to be active in the remembrance of veterans through visits to Battle Creek Vets Hospital on Christmas Day; fundraising and commemorative activities. The Zussman family [still in metro Detroit] take personal pride in the remembrance of this courageous hero.
Copyright 2013 Andrea Gallucci. All rights reserved.
Raymond Zussman photo courtesy of the Rabbi Leo M. Franklin Archive – Jewish War Veterans Collection.
Earlier this year, I was featured on WDET for my story chronicling the life and happy times of Detroit druggist Louis Stone. You can listen to it here. Ever since I researched his story in 2013 there has been speculation that the property was sold to developers for housing. Back in 2008, it was for sale – here’s the RFP with a bargain basement price of $300,000.
Here’s the scoop “unofficial / official” – Louis Stone Playground property is under contract to DTE for use as a substation to power the neighborhood. Power is a good thing but so is legacy and history. This is gonna sound so melodramatic.. Louis Stone brought so much fun, happiness and good times to Detroit kids and parents .. the drugstore is long gone and if the playground is bulldozed; his legacy will be completely gone. So play at this playground now.. and enjoy the uninterrupted Midtown electricity later. Perhaps DTE can name the substation after Louis Stone. It’s a little premature but I am moving this park to the gone file. xo – ag
FILLING PRESCRIPTIONS FOR HAPPINESS
For 20+ years, druggist Leiba Stepansky [Louis Stone] had the biggest heart in Detroit. Stone grew up the son of a prosperous shoe manufacturer; yet the poverty he witnessed in his native Russia made him acutely aware of the grim injustice of going without.
He left Russia when he was barred from medical school because he was a Jew. At 18 years old, Louis landed in Boston alone and learned English. He attended college and earned a degree as a pharmacist.
In 1925, he launched his career by moving to Detroit, taking a druggist job on East Jefferson in the “Little Bohemia” neighborhood. Soon, he opened his own drug store at Mount Elliot and Theodore Streets, then moved to his home base of Third Street at Stimson Avenue near Detroit’s Masonic Temple. His motto: “A happy child is a good child.”
BEAUTY FROM TRAGEDY
Halloween night 1928, a young mother came into the pharmacy asking for something to calm her nerves. Her son was struck and killed by car he didn’t see due to his mask. This event was the game changer in Stone’s life. It propelled him to create his famous Halloween street parties as a safe alternative to trick-or-treating. The parties started with a handful of kids and erupted into entertainment events – including treats, tricks, bands, clowns –servicing 5000+ children on Halloween evening. The festive environment helped to decrease juvenile delinquency in the city and raise the spirits of kids and parents alike.
Over the years, Stone also hosted events for needy children – trips to the beach; circus and baseball games. Stone knew that kids “just needed to blow off steam sometimes”. Regardless, each party ended in the same manner with the children all shouting a customary “OK Louie” in unison to signify the finale of the event.
HONORED AND LOVED
Stone received awards and honors from civic organizations, elected officials, religious institutions, as well as the State of Michigan legislature for his generosity, child advocacy, and creative problem solving. The Detroit Teacher’s Association planned to honor Stone with the first ever Distinguished Service Award. Stone penned a thank you letter saying he would accept the award in person, and mailed the letter on the day he died, January 3, 1953. Stone left no survivors.
A memorial service was held for the public outside Louis Stone Drugs complete with a Naval Salute, tributes, and flowers. Over 3,000 children attended. When the ceremony ended the children shouted their customary yell and they climbed aboard busses that whisked them away to the Shrine Circus.
On April 9, 1953 the Detroit City Council passed ordinance 728-E designating the Louis Stone Memorial Pool at Forest and Fourth Street to honor his unique contribution to Detroit. The pool has been closed for many years. The small, tidy park serves as a stopping point for many walking through Midtown and is in good condition. In spring 2013, news reports indicated this property has been sold for redevelopment. When the pool and park are gone, I hope the City of Detroit can find a way to remember Louis Stone… a generous man who created family amongst neighbors and friends.
Louie sure knew how to throw a great party.
Andrea Gallucci. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.
Lifsitz playground has seen some action since I first wrote about it in June 2013. The Canul family in Los Angeles contacted me to say ‘thanks’ for remembering Mortimer. That’s my favorite part .. connecting with the relatives. The old playground equipment was painted last year by a volunteer group; basketball players continue their workout on an antiquated court; it was getting mowed pretty regularly and even had a short commercial filmed there. In 2015, it’s been listed on the ‘for sale / reuse list’ by the city. When the perfect buyer appears, this memorial park will disappear. Mortimer’s memory will live on as an archival file and in the Jewish War Veteran’s Golden Book which features the Jewish Detroiters who were lost in WWII.
Dear Mrs. Lifsitz :
Your son, Private Mortimer N. Lifsitz a member of Company “B”, 116th Infantry Regiment, has been awarded the Silver Star posthumously for his outstanding actions against the enemy.
The citation for his heroic deed follows:
Private Mortimer N. Lifsitz, 116th Inf, U S Army for gallantry in action against the enemy in Germany. On 17 November 1944, the advance of Company ‘B’, 116th Infantry was suddenly halted by decimating enemy fire. Seeing that the majority of its leaders had become casualties, Private Lifsitz attempting to lead assault, jumped to his feet and calling on the men to follow, started forward on the run. While charging toward the enemy positions, Private Lifsitz fell mortally wounded by enemy fire. Private Lifsitz lost his life in this encounter but in doing so displayed such personal courage and tenacity in the face of great danger that he materially influenced the results of the encounter. His actions reflect great credit upon himself and the Military Service.
The officers and men of the 116th Infantry Regiment have lost not only an excellent soldier but a friend as well. It is for the comrades and officers of Private Lifsitz to carry on the fight which certainly must bring ultimate victory over an enemy which has for so long brought misery and destruction upon the world.
Private Lifsitz will not be forgotten, nor will the supreme sacrifice made by him. In all sincerity, the officers and men of the 116th Infantry Regiment extend their most heartfelt sympathy.
Sidney V. Bingham Jr.
Lt. Colonel Infantry Commanding
Mortimer Lifsitz was born on a Wednesday and died on a Friday. He was a Central High School graduate and worked in his father’s furniture business before enlisting. The only child of Max and Sophia. Military records show he was previously wounded twice before he met death in battle. His military decorations include: The Silver Star, Purple Heart and an Oak Leaf Cluster.
I have to check my notes but I do believe that at one point apartments were on the south side of the street and the park was just on the north side side of Gladstone.
SIGNS OF LIFE
The memorial playfield that commemorates Lifsitz’s leadership reaches down both sides of Gladstone Avenue west off Linwood in the heart of Detroit. No signage, fences, or markings remain at this site. The play area is marked by a few pieces of old equipment; a bit of the basketball court, and a makeshift brick bench. While visiting there in late winter/early spring, we ran into a few ring necked pheasants returning to their nest. A good sign. A few years back, neighborhood residents turned this block long park into a giant community garden; a bright spot in a somewhat hard place, just like Morty.
I appreciate your readership. thanks ag
Photo courtesy of Temple Beth El / Franklin Archives.
Copyright 2013 – Andrea Gallucci. All Rights Reserved.