Libbey group seeks historic military items from TPSWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
After an inventory of Libbey High School memorabilia hit the Web on Jan. 23, alumni asked for two historic items at a Toledo Board of Education meeting the next day.
Larry Farren, secretary of the Libbey High School Alumni, Inc. (LHSA), addressed the board on behalf of Sue Terrill, who was active in trying to preserve Edward Drummond Libbey High School. Libbey’s last class graduated in 2010 and demolition on the building began Jan. 9.
The two particular pieces are a bronze memorial plaque listing the names of 106 World War II veterans who graduated from Libbey and a memorial honoring Lt. Robert Craig, a Libbey graduate and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.
“These memorials need to be placed as close to Libbey High School as possible,” Farren said at the meeting.
Terrill said she has asked Libbey veterans to take up the cause. She hopes that the two plaques can be placed in a building near Libbey so people from the area have access to them. She learned that her cousin, Lt. Ralph Wiesenberg, is one of the 106 people listed on the plaque.
The board directed James Gant, Toledo Public Schools (TPS) chief business manager, to follow up on the two plaques with Farren and Terrill. Gant said he will do so and that “it seems like what [Farren] has suggested is not a bad way to proceed.”
Gant and LHSA said they hadn’t heard from other alumni since the list of about 350 pieces of memorabilia went up on the site www.toledolibbeyhsalumni.com. The trophies are currently in storage.
Farren said his emails to about 300 people on Libbey topics often go largely unanswered. “It’s kinda disheartening, you would think people would be more interested,” he said.
Lisa Sobecki, president of the board, said she has also asked Gant to contact Larrie Baccus, president of LHSA. Before the list went up, she said she had hoped LHSA would contact her, but it did not.
“I have heard nothing from the alumni association in a number of months,” she said. “If we don’t know anything about it, it kinda makes it hard for us to work together.”
Warren Woodberry, a local activist, disputed that alumni haven’t contacted the board, citing an Aug. 19 email from alum Bruce Taylor to Gant and board members.
Taylor wrote that he and Woodberry found six trophies in Libbey’s Al Jeffery Memorial Field House and included specific instructions on where to find the memorabilia to remove it before demolition began. Bob Vasquez, board member and then president, replied the same day, thanking Taylor for his help. Taylor received an email from Gant on Sept. 6 that read the “situation is in hand” and confirmation that the trophies were removed Sept. 8.
“Although [Gant] did respond, it was like pulling teeth,” Taylor said.
Gant said he believes TPS has been responsive to Libbey alumni.
“Obviously, this has been a hot topic. We really have prided ourselves that we should be extremely responsive to Libbey folks,” he said.
“It’s not just one school that Mr. Gant is responsible for,” Sobecki said.
Gant said he is creating a report on what the district could do with the individual trophies and potentially the team trophies for the February committee meeting of the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission chaired by Sobecki. He added that he plans to check with TPS legal counsel to ensure that the individual trophies are distributed properly and then get in touch with LHSA.
LHSA has said that it would like to reunite individual trophies with the winners or their families.
Gant and Sobecki said TPS would be open to finding a home for the team trophies at a business, library or other organization as suggested by LHSA.
Woodberry said he has “no confidence whatsoever” that TPS will display the trophies together as trophies from schools closed years ago are still not on display.
He also remarked on the 18 Libbey trophies in a display case at the Toledo Board of Education building.
“To have them in that isolated area, that is not a proper display,” he said.
Baccus agreed. “I was happy that they were somewhere, but the ideal place we had not sought, and that was to have them placed in the community. Especially since we have been separated from TPS by force.”
To house trophies, contact Gant at (419) 671-8414.