That was no soup tureen standing in the corner of the living room in that condominium in Highlands Ranch, just south of Denver.
That was no fondue pot, no piece of modern art, and certainly no punch bowl.
What Cheri Kaintz was staring at was a precious piece of Toledo’s rich nautical history. It wasn’t misplaced or marooned there, some 1,110 miles from its origin — it had just traveled with the descendants of a legendary Toledo sailor who had received this ornate symbol following his victory in a 19th century race.
This story ends with the Emery D. Potter Trophy — an incredibly detailed piece of silversmith genius — returning to the Toledo Yacht Club, where its journey began in 1884. No one in the club’s current membership recalled ever seeing a photo of the one-of-a-kind treasure, or even hearing about the trophy’s existence.
So earlier this year when it returned to TYC, a place where stunningly artistic trophies are commonplace, the Potter left them speechless.
“When I first saw it, I was just flabbergasted. I can’t think of another word to describe the initial shock,” said Kaye Soka, a highly involved member of the club. “We had no idea there even was such a trophy, and it was beyond anything we had imagined. It was just shocking to see the beauty and realize the work that had gone into creating it.”
The trophy now has its place of honor at the club, one of the oldest yachting organizations in the country and a bastion where nothing is prized more than its rich and colorful history.
That’s the easy part of this saga. The 120-some years in between — from when the trophy was won by Emery Davis Potter, Jr., until Kaintz happened upon it on a trip to the Rockies — it takes nothing short of a series of hard tacks, gentle coincidental breezes, and the fair winds of fate to follow that trail.
Emery Davis Potter, Sr., was a political heavyweight who is believed to have opened one of the first law offices in the city of Toledo. He served as a circuit court judge, common pleas court judge, was twice elected to Congress, served in the Ohio House of Representatives, the state senate, and was mayor of Toledo from 1846-48.
His son, Emery Davis Potter, Jr., was raised in Toledo and graduated from the University of Michigan Law School. He practiced law in Toledo, specializing in work for the railroads, and represented the Michigan Central Railroad for 50 years.
Potter, Jr., was also instrumental in the development of numerous Toledo parks, and he implemented legislation to help create the Toledo Public Library.
Potter, Jr., was also a prolific yachtsman who started sailing at age 10, and he regularly sailed Long Island Sound and Nantucket on family vacations. After helping incorporate the Toledo Yacht Club in 1878, he commissioned the Emery D. Potter Trophy in 1884.
He would go on to win the trophy bearing his name in 1893, racing aboard “Sultana,” a sleek, 51-foot, steel-hulled yacht that was the envy of every sailor on Lake Erie. Potter, Jr., served as commodore of Toledo Yacht Club from 1893-95 and was instrumental in obtaining the land in Bayview Park, where the club stands today.
One of Emery Davis Potter, Jr.’s sons was Rollin D. Potter, who is believed to have inherited the great trophy. It stayed in his family and eventually ended up with his daughter, Rolly Hassett, who now lives in that condo in Colorado where Kaintz first saw the piece.
Now to connect these random dots.
The Hassetts lived in West Toledo on Monac Drive, off Laskey Road. Two doors down the street lived Cheri, and she often played with Beth Hassett, Rolly’s daughter. The two families remained in intermittent contact after the Hassetts moved to Colorado in 1975.
Fast forward to 2011, when Kaintz plans a trip to Colorado Springs to visit her daughter, stationed there with the Air Force. She decided to also work on a visit with Rolly Hassett.
“I was beyond surprised when I walked into her living room and saw that beautiful trophy,” said Kaintz, a retired teacher from the Washington Local system. “Then she said it was from Toledo Yacht Club, and her grandfather had won it. I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say.”
This is where the tangents of fate and happenstance all get romantically co-mingled. You see, Kaintz had no association with boating, sailing, or the yacht club until just 16 years ago when she married her husband Tom, a past commodore of TYC. Had she seen the trophy prior to that, it likely would not have been the recipient of much more than a curious passing glance.
But having been a history teacher for many years, Kaintz had an appreciation for the relics of the past, and once she became part of TYC, she quickly learned history’s place of prominence in the club’s culture.
“When I first came here, I saw the pictures on the walls and the trophies all lined up, and it hit me just how critical history was to this place,” she said.
After the image of that magnificent trophy danced around in her head for many months, Kaintz decided earlier this year to ask Hassett if she would consider loaning the trophy to TYC so it could be displayed at the club and its story shared with the membership. After just a couple of days, the Hassett family responded that they wanted to give the trophy back to the club, a place where Hassett, now 88, recalls playing on the lawn as a child.
Hassett said simply that it was “time for the trophy to come home.”
“That was just such a generous gesture by the whole Hassett family, so they deserve all the credit for bringing this wonderful piece back to the club,” Kaintz said. “Everything happened by accident, and that is what’s so amazing. And in the end it brought some very valuable history back here, and I’m just so proud of that.”
Within a month, the FedEx truck arrived at the Kaintz home, carrying the huge, boxed trophy buried in several walls of bubble wrap. Not sure of its value, Hassett had insured it for just $1,000.
“It came in very good condition, and I was a nervous wreck until we got it to the club and showed it to the members,” Kaintz said. “I remember them just staring at it, just struck by its beauty.”
Kaye Soka still marvels at the series of connections that magically came into synch to bring the piece home to TYC.
“Just the utter coincidence of it all is amazing, the fact that someone from our club would happen to walk into that one house in Colorado and see this trophy standing there,” Soka said.
“And now, after who knows how many years, it’s back here where it originated. The workmanship is both stunning and irreplaceable, and this trophy has a great story to share. The whole tale is just beyond remarkable.”
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.