Sgt. David Stockton – Park #75

Stockton playground location: Dwight, Parkview, Detroit River

David Stockton playground was the starting point for the Gold Cup Races on the Detroit River in the mid 1960’s. Feel the thunder!
David Stockton playground on the right – directly east of the Mayor’s residence. Map courtesy of Google.

 

~ Thanks to Sandy L. and especially Linda G. who generously opened their digital family photo album. You meet the kindest-hearted, left handed folks through genealogy.  andreag

Local Yokel, Business Man, Soldier

This is a story of a life interrupted. 

David Frederick Stockton [1911-1944] became a Detroiter via the hills of Cookeville, TN.  His story is short and like many men who served in WWII, David’s life ended in an act of courage.  He was the only son of Houston Albert Stockton and Daisy Pearl Kinnaird.  Love those southern names.  The Stockton’s left the family cow in Tennessee and headed to Michigan in the 1920’s. [Sorry I didn’t get the cow picture.. but it exists].  They landed in Gratiot Township which would later become Harper Woods. Both father and son worked at US Rubber in the tire factory; Houston as a rubber former, David as a ‘box man’.

Stockton family courtesy of sandy l.
David with his sisters and uncle in front of their garage in Detroit. I always say that naming a child is the greatest gift.. these kids were super fortunate with gracious southern names. L to R – Minnie Jewel; Uncle John Quincy Kinnaird (visiting from Tennessee); Gladys Estelle (the tiny one), Edna Mae and a barefoot David Frederick. Photo use with kind permission of Sandy Lewis.

Continue reading “Sgt. David Stockton – Park #75”

Lt. Colonel Lorwyn E. Peterson – Park #73

I have said it before and I’ve got to say it again.. I meet the kindest people when writing and researching these stories.  When details are scant; I go looking for folks.  

This time I found the Atwell family who are direct relations of Lorwyn Peterson. It was a great pleasure to meet you personally!! 

Thanks again for the tidbits of information and the use of the photos.  

Truly – ag

PS. We will get to Fred Nagle next..

PETE IN CHARGE

Location: Pickford, Curtis and Greenfield

Lorwyn Elwyn Peterson (1908-1945) graduated from Michigan State College in 1930 with a degree in Business Administration. The son of Elwyn and Marie, he was raised in Brooklyn, a small town located in the Irish Hills area of Michigan.

 Photo of Lorwyn Peterson
The courageous and faithful Lt. Colonel Lorwyn Elwyn “Pete” Peterson circa 1943. Photo with kind permission from the Atwell Family.

Peterson enlisted for duty in World War II and rose rank to Lieutenant Colonel and Commander of the 716th Tank Battalion, 43rd Infantry Armored Division. Peterson’s relatives tell us he was to be made a full Colonel, however preferred to stay on with the men he trained for duty.    Continue reading “Lt. Colonel Lorwyn E. Peterson – Park #73”

SSgt. Walter Sak – Park 70

One War, Four Brothers, and a City Park

Location:  Rich, Lovett and Kinsman Streets

The first thing I ever read about Walter Sak Playground was in a city report stating it was “a forlorn park in a forlorn neighborhood”.  Little evidence of a playground remained when I first rolled by.  The surrounding neighborhood was a mixed bag of hope and blight with some new construction and steadfast neighbors just trying to keep it all together. 

I'll replace this with a recent photo soon. Hope the dolphin and helix are still there.
Photo taken in 2015.  I’ll replace this with a recent photo soon. Hope the dolphin and helix are still there.  Notice the church steeple in the background. 

Continue reading “SSgt. Walter Sak – Park 70”

Maheras – Gentry Field  #60

TWO HALVES MAKE IT WHOLE

7.25.2015 Yesterday, WDET published a wonderful story regarding Bronson Gentry.  Below is the other half of the story on Peter Maheras.

On Peter Maheras..

All who knew him, loved him and enjoyed working with him because of his patience and perseverance in surmounting obstacles. We felt that we had lost a true and good friend, when we heard of his passing, but his memory consoles us in our loss. We believe that he was all that being a good American means.  We who knew Peter believe we are better off, by having known him and having the privilege of calling him, my friend, Peter Maheras. Sincerely,  Curtis Laing – Mantle Club Secretary, 1947 Continue reading “Maheras – Gentry Field  #60”

Corporal Charles P. Kemeny – Park #59

July 2017 – The ceremonial shovels have turned over the first patch of dirt on the new Kemeny Rec Center.   Look for new photos later in the fall. 

HARDWORKING, DEDICATED DELRAY FAMILY

As a teen, Charles (Karoly) Kemeny enjoyed playing baseball on Detroit’s sandlots.  His relatives tell us his baseball skills were so exceptional the St. Louis Cardinals took interest in signing him to a contract.  Alas, he was too young to sign and his grandmother’s disapproval put this dream on the rear burner.  Charles worked odd jobs after graduating from Holy Reedmer High School intending to enroll at the Carnegie Institute of Technology for Engineering.  He heard the call to serve in WWII and in 1942 he enlisted with his parent’s consent. 

Charles Kemeny in uniform
Charles relaxing in uniform before shipping off to war. Photo: Courtesy of R.S. Bujaki and the Kemeny family.

Continue reading “Corporal Charles P. Kemeny – Park #59”

PFC. Harry Clyde Downey – Park 53

A DETERMINED MOTHER

It was October 1948 when Myrtle Downey first contacted the Detroit War Memorial Committee about naming a park for her fallen son.  It was her first letter and wouldn’t be her last.

Harry's mom - Myrtle Downey holding the cake. Photo used with the kind permission of Crystal Hayward.
Myrtle Downey holds the cake. Photo used with the kind permission of Crystal Hayward.

She had four sons enter the WWII effort, three returned.  She was a widow and dedicated mother who actively participated in the VFW 873 Ladies Auxiliary and the Detroit chapters of the Gold Star Mothers and the Blue Star Mothers.

She gave birth to Harry, her oldest in Ohio on January 14, 1917.  By the mid-1930’s the Downey family made their way to Detroit settling into the Braddish and Hubbard neighborhood.  In her writings, Myrtle indicated Harry enjoyed playing hockey and baseball.  He attended St. Leo’s school [now Crockett Academy] until the 8th grade.  Like their father, Harry and his brother Jack found employment at a local Awrey bakery.  When WWII called, he enlisted for service in November 1941, entering the US Army / Air Corp through Fort Custer in west Michigan. Continue reading “PFC. Harry Clyde Downey – Park 53”

2nd Lt. Daniel Buckley Riordan – Park #47

BY WAY OF PITTSBURGH

Born in Pittsburgh, Kansas on August 25, 1920, Daniel was the only son Mr. and Mrs. Thomas D. Riordan who once resided on Mansfield in Detroit.  He graduated from Holy Redeemer High School and went on to attend the University of Detroit.   Daniel worked at Cadillac Motors and sold real estate prior to WWII.  The mid-1940’s were busy years –  he was inducted into the US Army in August 1942 and passed Officer’s Training School in Fort Benning, GA in 1943. He proceeded onto the Rainbow Division at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma; here he would marry his sweetheart Mary Ellen Hanlon in an autumn ceremony on base.

Map courtesy of Google.
Map courtesy of Google. Hope Park is located to the right at the tan rectangle.. it never appears in a google search. Two lovely parks within a few blocks.

Continue reading “2nd Lt. Daniel Buckley Riordan – Park #47”

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.

Biraga Memorial Playground – Park 33

Corporal William Anthony Biraga

Location: Mount Elliot at Richardson

Yep! Sometimes Detroit parks are found within apartment complexes. I believe this park is actually owned by the apartment complex now and not the City of Detroit.   A big thank you to Kim B. for reaching out and sharing the photo of her relative.  I love it when that happens!  – Andrea G.

One of four city playgrounds in Detroit located in an apartment complex – the others are Bristol, Downey and Fitzpatrick.
The Mount Elliot area is looking better and better. This tidy play lot fronts Mount Elliot.
William “Willie” Biraga with his sister Harriet and an unidentified child in the old neighborhood on Comstock near Mount Elliot.

OPERATION CARTWHEEL 

William Anthony Biraga (1918-1943) served in WWII with Company I, Third Battalion, First Marines Division. On December 26, 1943, he was up against Japanese forces in the Battle of Cape Gloucester on the island of New Britain in the South Pacific.  It was a fierce battle and as an early casualty, William would be posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his courageous efforts. 

The objective was to capture a major Japanese airfield on the island and  set up safe passage for Allied Forces through the straits separating New Guinea from the island of New Britain.  This battle began in December and lasted approximately 4.5 months.  It was code named:  Operation Cartwheel. 

ALWAYS A MARINE, DUTY BEFORE SELF

Per his citation, Corporal Biraga led a group of six men behind a General Sherman tank in an assault against entrenched Japanese troops.  He became severely wounded yet continued to direct his men in combat.  His efforts were successful in beating back enemy forces.

He was evacuated to a waiting LST-453 [ Tank Landing Ship – an amphibious boat] where he died en route to hospital.  Biraga was 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.
I do love these public domain WWII photos.  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 un-groomed 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.  

A few years back an apartment complex was built on the property and the playground was incorporated into the new development.  Fronting Mount Elliot, this small and tidy playground offers kids and adults a green space to enjoy while honoring the memory of a one-time neighborhood kid. Mount Elliot in 2018 is looking better than ever. 

 

It’s great the plaque and flag pole base still exist. Back in the 1940’s and 1950’s most every park had a flag pole.
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.
Willie Biraga you are remembered.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Mortimer Nathan Lifsitz – Park 8

2015 Update:

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.

Mortimer Nathan Lifsitz
A young man off to war.

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.

Very Sincerely,
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.

map
Thanks google maps.

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.