Judge Jack Puffenberger gives a newly adopted girl a gavel with a pick bow while her father, Tim Krego, right, watches in Lucas County Probate Court.
Raising the small gavel he received as a gift from the Lucas County Probate judge 40 years ago when he was adopted by his mother’s husband, Tim Krego tapped the newer, much larger, version that his newly adopted daughter held in her small hands.
It was a toast of sorts in honor of the final step in Mr. Krego’s adoption of his brother’s daughter. And as in thousands of adoption cases in Lucas County over the years, both father and daughter plan to cherish the little token of their new family.
Lucas County Probate Court is celebrating 50 years of gavel-giving to those children adopted in the court. Calling 2012 the “golden anniversary of gavels,” Probate Judge Jack Puffenberger said the tradition has gone on over a half century and throughout the terms of three judges.
“Every child who has been adopted here for the past 50 years has received a gift of a gavel from the judge,” Judge Puffenberger said “ … We try to tell them that it’s not a hammer, it’s a gavel.”
The tradition of handing out the wooden gavels began in 1962 during the first term of the late Judge Willis Ludeman. Toledo City Councilman Rob Ludeman, Judge Ludeman’s son, said the idea evolved at the family dinner table.
“I still run into people on a monthly basis who say they were adopted 40 years ago and still have the gavel,” Mr. Ludeman said. “My understanding is that it has been continuous. So that’s 50 years of the continuous handing out of something to memorialize this event.”
To commemorate the thousands of gavels given to children adopted in Lucas County over the past five decades, Mr. Ludeman presented a resolution to the probate court a week ago on behalf of the city.
The resolution recognized the court and its three judges — Judges Ludeman, Robert Kopf, and Puffenberger — "for their love and dedication to the children and parents who so wanted to become a family."
Adoption papers and a gavel that Tim Krego received 50 years ago being held by his daughter before finalizing the adoption in Lucas County Probate Court.
Judge Puffenberger noted that the gavels have gotten bigger since the days they were first given out. The court also has smaller versions that are given to children involved in claims, including injury accidents or dog bites, which are settled through the court.
The judge keeps a handful of the gavels in a drawer at his bench. Each gavel is tied with a ribbon — blue for boys, pink for girls. And every Monday — when the court handles its docket of final adoptions — the judge pulls out a small present to send home with the new family.
Mr. Krego said he remembers when he was 6, and he and his two brothers were handed the small gavels.
It was a token that his mother still holds onto. So when he asked for it recently to take to his daughter’s adoption, his mom knew where to find it.
A single father, Mr. Krego said he plans to keep just as careful watch over the gavel in the house.
“We’ll have to find a box for it, because I’m sure it’ll be out for show and tell,” he said.
Contact Erica Blake at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.