Crossfit, Inc. members pay tribute to slain city gym owner

T-shirts collected for quilt from all over the globe

2/11/2013
BY FEDERICO MARTINEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Beth White, a Crossfit trainer for Comet Crossfit, helps cut patches for the Joe Lengel tribute quilt.
Beth White, a Crossfit trainer for Comet Crossfit, helps cut patches for the Joe Lengel tribute quilt.

Slain Toledo gym owner Joseph Lengel, Jr., lived for helping people get healthy and fit. So, it’s only appropriate that health-conscious people from around the world are rallying together to pay tribute to him.

Members of Crossfit, Inc. — an international fitness club — have banded together and collected hundreds of gym T-shirts that are being turned into a giant quilt honoring Mr. Lengel, who owned Crossfit Intensity Gym in south Toledo.

The tribute is being spearheaded by members of North Ridgeville, Ohio-based Coca Crossfit, which will deliver the finished quilt to the Toledo gym on Feb. 23. To complete the tribute, members from both Ohio gyms will work out together — using one of Mr. Lengel’s favorite exercise routines.

“I heard about his death in November,” said Coca Crossfit gym member Kirstin Hyland, who initiated the tribute. “At the time, nobody was sure if the gym would remain open. I wanted to do something to show support for them.”

Authorities say that Mr. Lengel, 57, was shot and killed as he arrived at his gym, 757 Warehouse Rd., in the early morning hours of Nov. 19, the victim of a robbery.

Ms. Hyland didn’t know Mr. Lengel. But, on Jan. 10, she posted a message on the Coca Crossfit gym’s Facebook page asking members from any Crossfit gym to donate one of their workout shirts for the quilt.

The response has been overwhelming, she said.

Donated shirts have come from as far away as Afghanistan, where an Ultimate Crossfit gym operates out of a U.S. Army base, Ms. Hyland said. The soldiers at the base signed a T-shirt and had it delivered to the North Ridgeville gym. Other shirts have arrived from Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Australia.

On Sunday, exercisers will gather at Coca Crossfit to sew pieces of the donated shirts into one big quilt.

“Crossfit is a different community,” Ms. Hyland explained. “It’s one of those organizations where everybody leans on each other. We’re always looking out for each other.”

Four of the men charged in Mr. Lengel’s shooting death await separate trial dates scheduled in March and April.

Tubs sit filled with CrossFit shirts that have been arriving from around the world  for the Joe Lengel, Jr., tribute quilt.
Tubs sit filled with CrossFit shirts that have been arriving from around the world for the Joe Lengel, Jr., tribute quilt.

Devonte Harris, 19, of 1326 Gordon St.; Jason Kuhns, 31, of 1416 Beecham St.; Matthew Managhan, 34, of 1156 South Ave., and Chad D. Brown, 35, of 839 Walbridge Ave. have been charged with aggravated murder and aggravated robbery, each with a gun specification.

They face up to life in prison if convicted.

Also charged in the crime is Deitrekk Boone, 19, of the Beecham address, who has not yet been arrested.

Taylor Jesko, who began managing the Toledo gym after the owner’s death, said Ms. Hyland’s gesture of support is appreciated.

“I was kind of surprised when she messaged me on Facebook about it,” Mr. Jesko said. “I think it’s awesome.

“The more support you can get helps heal the wounds.”

The well-liked gym owner’s death was very traumatic for the close-knit group of 70 gym members in Toledo, Mr. Jesko said.

“He was extremely humble and soft-spoken,” Mr. Jesko said. “He was easy to get along with. I don’t think anybody would have anything bad to say about him.”

When the quilt is delivered, it will be put on display in the gym, he said.

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.