Medal of Honor winner Craig’s plaque placed in VA ClinicWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
A plaque commemorating a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient that used to hang in Libbey High School has found a new home at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Community-Based Outpatient Clinic.
The recipient, Lt. Robert Craig, graduated from Libbey in 1937. He grew up near the clinic after emigrating from Scotland. He died serving the United States on July 11, 1943, in Favoratta, Sicily.
During World War II, while trying to locate and demolish a hidden enemy machine gun, “Commando Bob” and his men came upon 100 enemy soldiers. He ordered his men to withdraw and drew the gunfire to himself. Craig was killed, but his men were able to drive the enemy out of the area.
The Craig Memorial Bridge now bears his name. Four-hundred-sixty-six Congressional Medals were given out during World War II.
The plaque’s former home, Libbey, was demolished Jan. 9 after building upkeep was deemed too costly. The school’s last class graduated in 2010 after a period of declining enrollment.
A group of Libbey alumni and Gayle Schaber, the last Libbey principal and current director of special projects and compensatory programs for Toledo Public Schools (TPS), had been meeting for months to discuss what should happen to Craig’s plaque and several trophies. The trophies and another plaque listing the names of 106 Libbey alums who gave their lives in World War II still need homes in the community and are currently in storage with TPS.
The Craig plaque is the first Libbey item that has found a new home in the community, said Sue Terrill, a member of the alumni group.
“I feel very happy that Toledo Public Schools allowed [the placement] to happen and this kind of makes it clear to me how important that this was,” she said. Alumni group member Roger Sund is working with the Lucas County Commissioners to find a home for the other veterans’ plaque.
The group also worked with Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur and Councilman D. Michael Collins, who serves on the VA Clinic board, to place the Craig plaque in the clinic.
“It was agreed that it would be a very appropriate location to recommit the memorial,” Collins said. The new VA Clinic officially opened this fall at 1200 S. Detroit Ave. The plaque hangs on the second floor, accompanied by text about Craig.
There is also a picture of Craig on the “Faces of Heroes,” display inside the clinic, a 40-foot installation featuring area veterans’ pictures. Terrill’s father, who joined the army in 1937, is pictured near Craig.
“That was cool personally, to see that so close to Lt. Craig,” she said.
Despite the plaque getting placed, there is still some tension between the alumni group and TPS. A date had been set for the group to go photograph and record the trophies and memorabilia in storage. However, TPS canceled that date in October because more employees were needed to oversee the effort.
Patricia Mazur, TPS spokesperson, did confirm that TPS is working with the group to set a new date to go through the items.
Terrill said that Schaber was able to give the group one box of items, which alumni are currently sorting. The box contained death announcements for some of the 106 veteran students and some pictures, including one of Craig.
Collins said of the trophy situation, “I became very disenchanted with the lack of energy to preserve the history of Libbey High School and find a new purpose for the facility, and so all of the other things that are associated with Libbey have left me with a very unsettling feeling because I can’t dismiss the fact that TPS, by demolishing Libbey, not only took out one of the major architectural masterpieces in the City of Toledo, it also scuttled educational opportunities for a complete neighborhood.”