US Navy Rear Admiral William Leroy Messmer – Park 77

Location:  Bremen, Bluehill and Minneapolis  

Super clean park just south of East English Prep Academy, formerly George Ham Cannon playground.
Super clean park just south of East English Prep Academy, formerly George Ham Cannon playground.

THE GIFT OF MUSIC AND LEADERSHIP

As a youth, Bill Messmer [1903-1973] found his love of music while attending Detroit’s Eastern High School.  Musically gifted, he directed and organized a 16 piece orchestra as a teen.  His mother recollected how Bill would purchase his sheet music at the Jerome H. Remick music ‘house’ in Detroit. One day, she ran the errand of picking up his sheet music and had an encounter with the famous composer Richard Whiting, [nice story at that link] who managed the desk as a fledgling composer.  

After high school, Messmer attended Annapolis Naval Academy graduating in 1925.  His continued Navy service and would provide leadership in both World War II and the Korean War.  In July 1943 Commander Messmer guided a 13 ship mine sweeping unit in hostile, actively mined waters off of Sicily.  His expert tactile ability and rescue efforts resulted in opening a harbor closed to US WWII forces.  He earned the Navy Cross Medal.  In the early 1950’s he was called for duty in Korea and quickly earned the Bronze Star as Commander of an escort destroyer squadron.  

William Messmer Sr., 1952 Detroit Free Press. A Navy career means traveling the world and making your home where ever you land. His son and namesake was born in Rio de Janiero and followed in his Navy footsteps graduating from Annapolis.
William Messmer Sr., 1952 Detroit Free Press. A Navy career means traveling the world and making your home where ever you land. His son and namesake was born in Rio de Janiero and followed in his Navy footsteps graduating from Annapolis in the 1960’s.

William’s mother insisted that he take his violin with him to war.  Resistant, Messmer complied with parting words, “I know what you expect. You expect me to sit in the prow of the No. 1 ship and you expect me to fiddle while the whole world burns,” he said.  The violin proved to be good company. Messmer retired from Navy service as a Rear Admiral in 1955.  He died in July 1973.

THE LEAR CORP. CONNECTION

William Leroy Messmer was one of the few Detroit residents who received the honor of a namesake park while still living.  The playground came to fruition as an act of the Detroit War Memorial Committee in 1951. His east side playground is an active venue for basketball, neighborhood picnics and little league games at the Joseph Simoncini Field. 

The park is kept in tip-top shape by the Motor City Grounds Crew, a landscape non-profit founded and subsidized by the Lear Corporation. Joe’s field may be [not sure] a loving tribute to a relation of Matthew Simoncini, CEO of the Lear Corporation who grew up in Detroit’s East English Village and continues to support Detroit with corporate investment through educational opportunities and resurrected manufacturing pursuits.  Thanks Matt for sticking with your roots.

Hey thanks for reading!

Copyright Andrea Gallucci, 2016.