Not many parks in Detroit named for the ladies..only a few more after this one..
“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’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.
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.
©Andrea Gallucci, 2014. All rights reserved. Thanks for reading.
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.
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.
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?
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.
copyright 2015, andrea gallucci.
PRESS AGENT / MARKETING GURU
Alice Gorham would have loved the newer sign currently hanging at her playground at the corner of Pembroke and St. Mary’s in Detroit.. The bright yellow background with red funky lettering screams marketing.
As a press agent for more than 30 years, Alice Gorham had an exciting and successful Detroit career. She worked for Fred Grennell’s advertising agency before being lured to Channel 7 WXYZ-TV Detroit where she wrote newscasts, publicity, and the scripts for then station produced show “Hollywood Highlights”. In 1933, her boss was awarded a contract to manage a group of Detroit movie theaters [then known as movie palaces] – the Michigan, United Artists, State, Fisher, Rivera, Eastown and Ramona Theaters. Alice quickly became the head of advertising for this theater group and staged the most interesting and outrageous marketing to draw in the entertainment seeking market.
CREATIVE AND CIVIC MINDED
In addition to her busy career, Alice co-authored music. She was the publicist and a booster of The Old Newsboys of Detroit whose main mission was to collect toys for needy children at Christmastime. For many years, a literature rack bearing her name stood in the lobby of the Mariner’s Church in downtown Detroit. Alice was loved by the Old Newsboys and she loved them in return by providing her services pro bono. In April 1950, she was selected to be on the planning committee for the City of Detroit’s 250th Anniversary celebration.
Mrs. Gorham passed away in 1957 shortly after the death of her beloved husband, Glenn. She is buried in Lake City Cemetery, Lake City MI. By 1959, the Detroit Common Council passed a resolution to dedicate a playground to honor the memory of this busy entertainment woman who touched Detroit in interesting and creative ways.
Copyright 2013. © Andrea Gallucci All rights reserved.