Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: WWII Decorated Flying Ace Donald Blakeslee featured at Fairport Harbor Program Tonight

The sixth installment of Fairport's Bicentennial Year Lecture Series will be held tonight at 7pm at Harding High Auditorium.  Three profiles will be presented. Each presenter will be a community member with ties to this featured personality.  N.W. Rasmussen and Dr. Amy Kaukonen will be two of the three histories presented.  Rasmussen, a USLSS Chief and Kaukonen, Ohio's first women mayor and county prohibitionist have been featured in previous blogs.  Today, we highlight the story of Fairport's Donald Blakeslee.

                                                     Donald Blakeslee

Blakeslee was born in Fairport Harbor in 1917 and passed away at the the age of 90 in October 2008.  As a child, Donald became fascinated in airplanes while attending the Cleveland National Air Shows of the 30's.  Before the decade was over he even bought a Piper Cub.  By 1940 Blakeslee ventured to Canada where he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force.  Sent to Britain, he fought combat missions.  In 1942, he was transferred to the US Army Air Forces and assigned to the Fourth Fighter Group.  In time, he became Commander of the Squadron.

By war's end, Donald was credited with 500 missions and over 1000 hours of combat flight time. Both facts are believed to be the most credited to any fighter pilot in aviation history. On March 6, 1944 his command dropped 4000 pounds of bombs on Berlin.  On April 8, 1944 his group downed a record number 31 Luftwaffe planes in a day.  In a ceremony in England on April 11, 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the European theater, awarded Colonel Blakeslee the Distinguished Service Cross.  His award was the result of his destroying 30 German planes to date. Additionally, Donald also was instrumental in escorting shuttle bombers to Russia, an arduous task in that era.   Blakeslee's career continued through 1965 when he retired.

Tonight's program is being sponsored by the Fairport Harbor Historical Society.  The Village Bicentennial Committee, High School Principal Tom Fazekas, and keynote speakers Jim Rasmussen, Lasse Hiltunen, and Craig Blakeslee invite the public to this unique look back into Fairport's place in history.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Three Programs Highlight This Week

Three events take place this week that are worth attending. These events and others of a similar nature may be found by logging onto / bookmarking,,, or

Monday, September 24th  --  Flying with the First Families
                                                 7pm at Morley Public Library

John L. Haigh Sr., former chief steward of Air Force One will be on hand to share his program titled 'Flying with the First Families: My Honor to Serve the Presidents.'  His talk will share his experiences flying with our U.S. Presidents and their families.  Unique anecdotes and primary source tales will be shared with the audience from Chief Steward Haigh's insider perspective.

Thursday, September 27th  --  Fairport Harbor Profiles
                                                    7pm at Harding High School Auditorium

The sixth installment of Fairport's Bicentennial Year Lecture Series will highlight three notable figures in the Village history.  Family members will be the keynote speakers as they share the histories of N. Rasmussen, USLSS Chief circa 1900, Dr. Amy Kaukonen - First Women Mayor in Ohio, and Donald Blakeslee - WWII Flying Ace.

September 29th -- Perry Historical Society Plans 20th Anniversary Party
                               2-5pm at Perry Historical Museum

This Saturday will mark the 20th anniversary celebration for the Perry Historical Society.  the museum will be open for tours, children's musical entertainment and games.  The highlight of this free afternoon will be a historical appearance by Confederate General Jeb Stuart and wife Flora, portrayed by Dan and Ruth Frazier.

Once again as you travel the roads of Lake County, its past history permeates from all corners of its landscape.  Stop by one or all of these events this week and take the time to learn the stories from your hometowns.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Fairport Personalities

 Two hundred years of history provides many interesting stories to share.  As the year winds down, we have shared many interesting profiles, tid-bits in local history, and factual accounts of Fairport's development.  A program at Harding High on Thursday, September 27th at 7pm will celebrate three Fairport residents who had signature moments in community history. Today we recall two other members worthy of mention.

                                              Edward Rasmussen

Edward was the son of Fairport's most reknown seafaring man Captain N.W. Rasmussen.  In village history, Edward was proprietor of Rasmussen's Restaurant on High Street.  A veteran of a World War, he served four years as a Deputy Sheriff before serving two terms as Sheriff of Lake County.  His tenure as sheriff was significant in that he was the only office holder from the Village in its previous 75 years.

                                             Neal Katila

Neal Katila was born in Fairport and graduated from Harding High.  Neal learned his craft in the old Fairport Publishing House, print shop on Eagle Street.  Neal and his brother Carl launched their printing business located on High Street in 1929.  Their business printed both the Merchant News and Fairport Beacon newspapers thru February 1959.  Other publications of the Neal Printing company included the Harvey yearbook-Harbinger, LEC school newspaper, high school annuals, cookbooks, church commemoratives and such.  While the brothers did provide custom printing and services throughout Lake County it was their affinity to providing local news service and merchant advertising to Fairport that is best remembered.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Mayor Ritari (1946-1955)

Beginning with George Riker (1889-1896), Fairport Harbor has had 31 Mayors in its history.  Some such as Dr. Amy Kaukonen and Niels M. Rasmussen are known in history for other major contributions to our county.  Four Mayors were of Finnish descent (first generation), the first of whom was said to be the first woman mayor in Ohio and the U.S.  Tim Manross is Fairport's newest Mayor, elected in 2011.  While each Mayor has left a footprint on the Village of Fairport, it is Arthur J. Ritari who helped with 'keeping  Fairport on the Map' in the modern era.

Fairport's chief executive was born in Fairport in 1904.  He graduated from the high school in 1922. Arthur attended Mount Union College and Ohio State University.  Graduated from OSU, he was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1930.  Ritari served as Village Solicitor from 1932-1940, serving four councils.  During the Rendrick administration, his legal advice helped Fairport secure the water plant and street paving projects.  He married Ethel Lawrence (daughter of famous Fairport merchant E.E. Lawrence).

It is during his tenure as Mayor of Fairport that two signature village events occurred.  Ritari was solely responsible for all the contact work with the heirs of Samuel Huntington, who deeded the Huntington Beach property to Fairport in 1946.  Huntington Beach is still under village control today as part of a cooperative lease with Lake Metroparks.  Ritari's second signature event involved the local lighthouse and marine museum.  The Fairport Harbor Historical Society had saved the iconic lighthouse from the wrecking ball many years earlier.  Its volunteers established a non-profit museum on the site and maintained control of the property until 1952.  In June 1952, the lighthouse property had been deemed government surplus property.  This declaration meant the FHHS could not legally gain title to their lighthouse and museum.  Ritari urged immediate action to regain title of the site.  His efforts in making the museum a historic venue and the lighthouse a monument gained steam.  On May 14, 1953 Ritari was able to get Congress to give the deed to the village.  Furthermore this quitclaim deed from the Department of the Interior guaranteed that the FHHS and lighthouse museum would continue in its mission of preserving the history and sentiment of Fairport and the Great Lakes area.  For $1.00 per year the FHHS continues to lease Lake County's famous landmark, thanks to the civic mindedness of Fairport's twenty-third mayor.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pete's Pond, Just-A-Mere, Corrigan's, Rockefeller and Wickliffe's Summer Farms

A small building houses the Wickliffe Board of Education.  It was once the stable to the Rockefeller summer farm.  Wickliffe City Hall was once the estate of shipping magnate Harry Coulby.  Old quarry stone may be found on the trails surrounding Pete's Pond adjacent to Wickliffe High School.  These are remnants from gardens that were part of Millionaire's Mile estates.  Ridge Road at one time sloped down to Lake Erie and vineyards dotted the landscape.  This is part of Wickliffe's early history, a history that began around 1887.

Lake Metroparks entered into a cooperative recently with Wickliffe Schools and is currently undertaking the preservation of Pete's Pond, a local landmark.  A man named Pete acquired the pond property in 1947 and by 1951 the pond was a well known entity.  Pete's Pond is roughly 19 acres and empties into Gully Brook.  It's early history is the backstory today.

Pete's Pond is located on Rockefeller Road.  Yes, Rockefeller as in John D, the Standard Oil magnate who once was part of Cleveland's Millionaires Row. John's youngest brother Frank and his wife Helen bought 158 acres of land off Ridge Road circa 1887.  They built and named their summer home Lakeland.  These homes or summer farms in Lake County were a retreat away from the industrial pollution found in nearby Cleveland.  Frank Rockefeller's farm was one of six located in Wickliffe.  Known as Millionaire's Mile, other farms on Ridge Road included Corrigan's ( Pine Ridge Country Club site), Coulby Mansion (Wickliffe City Hall) and Just-A-Mere- the Joseph Nutt estate.

That time in history has passed, the Wickliffe summer farms are now memories, lands were sold and subdivided.  However a walk through the Pete's Pond property or a drive down Ridge Road may offer you a brief glimpse into another chapter that was Lake County's past.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: More Fairport Harbor Profiles

Today we share the stories of two more members of Fairport Harding High's Hall of Fame. One alum made his mark in the world of business, the other had a role in arguably one of the 20th century's most significant events.

                                                 George Daly Jr.

A '58 graduate of Fairport Harding High, George earned his doctorate in the discipline of business.  He served as Dean and Professor for the McDonaugh Business School at Georgetown University.  His research and publications were used by agencies at the National level.  George never forgot his hometown as he donated a computer room to the high school and a children's literature wing at the library.

                                                 Henry G. Kuivila

Kuivila graduated from the Fairport Schools in 1935.  A year later he was utilizing his educational knowledge at the Diamond Alkali.  By 1948 Henry had earned his degree in chemistry from The Ohio State University.  A Ph.D. from Harvard came shortly thereafter.  A career as a Professor at New Hampshire University and NY University followed.  Kuivila's greatest moment may have come when he worked on and contributed to one of the 20th century's defining events - The Manhattan Project.