Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Long-serving mayors are unique

It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Art Baldwin as mayor of Waite Hill. By my calculation, he has held the office for about 45 years. But don’t hold me to that. Sometimes I can off by a year or two when I’m counting on my fingers.

And it’s beginning to be hard imagining anyone other than Dave Anderson as mayor of Willoughby. He was first elected in 1991, so you can do the math. I think he’s closing in on 20 years.

I know that Cecil Todd and Bud Brichford were both mayor for a long time, but Dave is on track to catch up with Art Baldwin.

But by the time he catches him, Art will have been mayor for close to 70 years — provided they both keep running.

And there is no reason why they shouldn’t. They are both doing everything the voters could ask of them. Running against either man would be foolish as well as a waste of time and money.

Which brings me back exactly to where I started thinking about long-serving mayors. It was a column about two mayors with staying power, written by Brent Larkin in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

He spoke warmly of Paul Cassidy, now 92, who was elected mayor of Parma Heights in 1957, served 43 years and retired undefeated in 2000 without ever breaking a sweat.

His other subject was John Coyne, now 94, who was elected mayor of Brooklyn in 1947 and lost a re-election bid in 1999. That must be about 52 years, again relying on finger-counting.

Obviously, they were enormously popular in those two suburbs on the southwest side of Cleveland.

They could probably relate numerous reasons for their success. And so could Art Baldwin and Dave Anderson. All of them would talk about good services and programs, efficient government, quality safety forces, responding quickly to citizen complaints, plowing the snow, picking up trash and everything else that residents demand.

But I could tell you something else about the kind of classy people Cassidy and Coyne are that might not occur to you: It has to do with dealing with families and kids.

First, let me set stage for my tale. In 1959, I was either city editor or managing editor of The News-Herald, I’m not sure which. Our parent company, Bolton Publications, owned two weekly papers — the Parma News and the Brooklyn News. I was sent over there to be the editor of them.

After 15 months I was brought back to The News-Herald as executive editor. But that brief span was an exciting time in my newspaper career, and it wasn’t just because the Indians traded Rocky Colavito while I lived in Parma.

I was literally a one-man staff on those two papers. Oh, we had an office manager, two secretaries and two or three ad salesman. But I did everything else. I was editor, reporter, sports writer, fashion editor, photographer and copy boy.

We didn’t have a printing press. That was at our paper in Dover, where I drove every Wednesday to supervise the makeup of the paper. Our office was above the Parma Hardware store at Ridge and Pearl Roads. We sent all our news and ad copy to Dover by Greyhound Bus.

Because of my status at the two papers (they were really the same paper with Page 1 and Page 4 changed), all the big shots in town wanted to take me to lunch. Only on Wednesday did I refuse.

About the third day I was in the office, where I developed film in a closet, Paul Cassidy paid me a visit. He introduced himself as the mayor of Parma Heights and told me all I could ever want to know about his city. And he asked me a lot of questions about myself.

One of them was, "How many kids do you have?"

"Two," I replied. No. 3 wouldn’t arrive until the following February.

"Here," he said, reaching into his pocket, "are four swimming pool passes. The city has a great pool. You’ll enjoy using it."

Not long after that, John Coyne called. One of his questions was the same: How many kids do you have? Two, I told him.

"Bring them over to the Brooklyn Fire Station," he said. "I’d like to show them the fire truck. Kids love it. And I’ll give them fireman’s hats."

Soon we went over. The kids got to give the fire engine a good look-over, and the mayor gave them bright red fireman’s hats made of pressed cellophane. And photos were taken.

Cassidy was a Republican and Coyne a Democrat. They were — and are — great Americans who knew how to win elections.

And they both liked Pete’s Wayside Inn for lunch. So did I.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Scholarship funds honor, serve

At the end of last week’s column about a marvelous humanitarian effort, the establishment of the Nancy Theiling Thuma Foundation to award scholarships to deserving graduates of South High in Willoughby, I promised a few words about three similar programs involving the school.

They are the Arthur S. Holloway, Romeo Pallante and Pat Totedo funds. All four, including the Nancy foundation, are named for highly admired individuals who were positive forces in the community.

The Friends of Arthur S. Holloway Scholarship Fund was established by 10 fellow members of the Willoughby Rotary Club who were close to the former superintendent of schools in the Willoughby-Eastlake district and wanted to preserve his memory by awarding financial help to graduates of both South and North highs.

Art was a past president of Rotary. He was a community leader in many ways. It was felt that a scholarship bearing his name would be a fitting tribute to a man who was so greatly loved and who left such a lasting imprint on the district.

So 10 of his friends got together and put in motion the program than was certified May 3, 1998 to give financial aid to graduates of both schools.

Art was impartial in his devotion to the two schools. When he attended football games he wore a jacket that was half North and half South – North orange on one side and South blue on the other.

Thus it was decided to divide the scholarship funds equally beginning in 1988 with one winner from each school. The awards began modestly with two $500 scholarships, rising as high as $2,400 in 1997, when the stock market was providing excellent returns on the fund’s investments.

Since then the awards have fluctuated as the market has risen and ebbed. The total number of scholarships now stands at 48, representing $62,100 in grants.

A wide variety of institutions has welcomed the North and South scholars. The cross-section includes Lakeland, Kent State, Ohio State, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Akron, John Carroll, Hiram, Oberlin, Northwestern, Miami, Gannon, Cleveland State, Ohio Wesleyan, Dayton, Toledo and Ashland.

The fund now has assets of $79,378 and new contributions are received each year.

The original incorporators of the fund included Bob Riggin, who remains as president, John Nelson, who remains as treasurer, Dr. Walter Sargent, Dr. Paul Ferris and myself. Four are deceased: Dr. Jim Oddis, the Rev. William P. Gross, Marion Beloat and Dr. Charles Hoffecker.

The 10th trustee, Pete Jurjans, moved to Latvia. Because we wanted an attorney on the board, Pete was replaced by Barry Byron. After his passing, he was replaced by his son and law partner, Steve Byron. So we still have an attorney on hand, although we don’t anticipate any legal entanglements.

Clark Hill has been added to the board, which will soon fill a couple of vacancies from among active Rotarians.

Contributions can be sent to Bob Riggin at 38171 Pleasant Valley Rd., Willoughby Hills, OH 44094.

The Romeo Pallante fund got an enormous amount of publicity a year ago when we launched it with a huge concert in the Performing Arts Center at Mentor High in honor of the man who was vocal music director at South High, the Lakeland civic chorus, the Willoughby Methodist Church, the Ohio Bell choir and virtually anywhere else where as many as two people could get together and hold the same note for five seconds.

The concert did well. It endowed scholarships at both South High and Lakeland Community College. The concert was such an outpouring of love and affection for the adored Ro Pallante that people are still talking about it.

The other scholarship is fairly new. It honors Pat Totedo, long-time president of the South High Boosters Club and who was honored in 1988 as a Distinguished Citizen by the chamber of commerce.

It was established by his family to continue the legacy of Pat and his spirit of giving back to the community by providing financial aid each year for a South High graduate seeking to further his or her education.

The first Pat Totedo scholarship was awarded this year.

If you would like to make a contribution to any of these scholarship funds, give me a call and I will point you in the right direction.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Memorial foundation pays tribute

When I wrote recently about the Adele Knight Excellence in Teaching Award, I noted the committee had chosen that way of paying tribute to the late Latin teacher at Willoughby Union High rather than setting up another scholarship fund because there was no shortage of scholarships available.

It wasn’t long before I heard from representatives of four scholarship organizations. As it happens, all four are near and dear to my heart.

So I would like to comment on all four, and will begin with one that honors one of the sweetest young ladies you could ever hope to meet — Nancy Theiling Thuma.

I have known her parents, Irene Gunvalsen Theiling and her husband, Jim Theiling, since our high school days. Irene was homecoming queen at Union High three years after I graduated and Jim was from West High but we all knew him because he was a state hurdles champion in track, and Irene made sure we all got to know him.

They had three wonderful kids. The youngest, Nancy, was at South High with one of my two daughters and was an absolute sweetheart.

In addition to having her mother’s good looks, she inherited her dad’s athletic ability. She was the only female athlete to participate in varsity sports at South High. Before the formation of girls’ teams she played on the varsity tennis team, and ran with the track team in junior high.

She was also an accomplished snow skier, winning numerous awards while participating with the Euclid Ski Club in New York state.

She also played in the Willoughby Women’s Softball League for 10 years.

In 1992 she was diagnosed with brain cancer and fought a valiant battle with the disease until her passing in May, 1996, at the age of 35. She and her husband, David Thuma, lived in Parma at the time.

Her strength and courage were inspirational to her family and friends, who were motivated to establish the Nancy Theiling Thuma Foundation to award scholarships to deserving graduates of South.

Emphasis is placed less on an applicant’s academic achievements and more on a demonstrated desire to excel in post secondary education. The effort has been an unqualified success!

Since the fund’s inception, which began with seed money from individuals who touched Nancy’s life, it has grown to $94,000 and is projected to be at $108,000 by this time next year. Contributions, of course, are tax deductible.

Since 1997, scholarships totaling more than $77,000 have been awarded to 56 outstanding South graduates. Eleven other charitable contributions have also been made, including six Gerald Daniels Awards.

Scholarship recipients have attended both private and state-supported schools.

A brief list includes Lakeland Community College, Cleveland State University, John Carroll University and Case Western Reserve University.

In 2006 the foundation made a commitment to the Gerald Daniels Memorial Scholarship. He was a math teacher who began his career in 1969 at Willoughby Junior High, later moving to South High.

Many members of the Nancy Theiling Thuma Foundation had been math students in his classes.

In 1988 he died quite suddenly. A scholarship established in his honor ran from 1989 through 1996, when the remaining funds were presented to his twin daughters on their 18th birthday.

Because he was so highly respected and admired, the Nancy foundation provided funds to re-start the $1,000 scholarship awards.

If I were to say that I have known Jim and Irene Theiling for 65 years I might be exaggerating by a couple of years, but not much more than that. And I must say I have never known a more handsome couple. Naturally, they would have good-looking kids.

At Nancy’s passing, the response was almost immediate to establish a memorial to her life. The result was the foundation which bears her name and which has been such a success.

The Nancy fund continues to grow and thrive. Contributions can be sent to the foundation coordinator, Steve Jenkins, 4794 Willoughcroft Road, Willoughby, OH, 44094.

Next week I will mention the Arthur S. Holloway, Romeo Pallante and Pat Totedo funds — great people all!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Many are behind a great cause

When does a vision become a reality?

It all depends on how much drive, enthusiasm and determination exists in the heart of the dreamer who concocted the vision.

In the case of the Coaches’ Corner Home in Painesville, which in its infancy is reaching to attain success, the original dreamer was Coach Devlin Culliver of Painesville Schools.

He envisioned a group of young men who were basically good kids but who were displaced for reasons beyond their control.

Year after year they had been eating and sleeping at the homes of anyone who would provide a hot meal and a warm place to bunk down. To anyone who understood the problem, it was a heartbreaking existence

Several of Culliver’s fellow Harvey High coaches also recognized the problem, and dug into their own pockets to help. The local NAACP chapter also was a big help.

But although the problem was easily understood, it was beyond the ability of those who first recognized it — until help arrived. And that help did come.

Coaches’ Corner Home is now a reality. It is a real house, staffed by real people. Its occupants are real kids who need a helping hand. And the concept is working because that helping hand was held out by a compassionate community of good-hearted citizens who not only want to help, but who, in the parlance of the street, are willing to put their money where their mouths are.

Good ideas often don’t bear fruit until adequate financing comes along.

So how do you raise funds for such an obviously worthwhile project? Simple.

Well, not so simple, actually. Such an enterprise requires the involvement of a lot of good people who are willing to contact other good people, plead their case, and act together to achieve results.

First on the agenda was a fundraiser. Such an event was the First Annual Fundraiser and Silent Auction, held May 16 at Quail Hollow County Club in Concord Township. It was a resounding success.

But that was only because of the people involved. It is important for you to be aware of who the good folks are behind Coaches’ Corner Home.

Officers of the home are Michael Bernal, president; Debra Douglas, secretary; and Allison Puckett, treasurer. The project director is James E. Dillard.

I don’t have the space to get into who they are other than to say that they are part and parcel of what Painesville is all about. I know all of them and can vouch for the fact that they are wonderful people.

The board of directors consists of Kay Hatala, Connie Strickland, Donald Waytes and Dr. Michael P. Hanlon, Painesville’s superintendent of schools.

Ex-officio members are Sudhir Achar, Matt Armand and Gary Campbell.

The sponsors of the fundraiser are worthy of mention. They were Avery Dennison, Classic Automobile Group, Dworken & Bernstein (Lawyers Give Back), Fredon Corp., Habitat for Humanity, Lake County Captains Baseball, Lakeland College Foundation, Lubrizol Corp., Painesville Schools, Regent Systems and the Sara Lamade White Foundation.

If you think those are impressive names, you are correct.

Welcoming remarks were made by a guy I watch every morning. He constantly amazes me by the number of suits, shirts and ties he owns — Channel 8 morning news co-anchor Wayne Dawson.

The lady of the house and I spent a lot of time talking to him after the program, but were kind enough to let him get away. He goes on the air about 4:30 in the morning.

I think he said 4:30. I couldn’t swear to it. I’m not up then.

The rest of the speakers were introduced by Ray Somich of WELW, 1330 on your AM dial. They included Coach Culliver, who presented the "vision" of the Coaches’ Corner Home, and Pat Perotti, an attorney with Dworken & Bernstein, who spoke of the "dedication" involved. He is the man who put cy pres in everyone’s vocabulary. Simply put, he gave away millions to charity that was unclaimed from a class action law suit settlement.

The star of the show was keynote speaker Dru Joyce II, a compelling and much in demand lecturer who is known as one of the best and most successful high school basketball coaches in the country.

His star pupil in Akron was LeBron James. You have probably heard of him. If Joyce had talked for three hours, I would have listened. He was that good.

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