In 1917, two years after the death of John Gunckel, present and former newsboys from across Toledo brought marble, mica, and an assortment of other stones from all over the world to his grave at the now Historic Woodlawn Cemetery to pay tribute to the founder of the Toledo Newsboys Association, which later evolved into the Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo.
More than 100 years later, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Toledo is partnering with Bricklayers Local 3 — affiliated with the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Ohio-Kentucky Administrative District Council — to repair the 25-foot high memorial pyramid constructed from those stones.
The idea to restore the monument originated last year, at an annual memorial service to honor Mr. Gunckel’s legacy. After overhearing Mr. Gunckel’s granddaughter, Billie Iles, 91, say she wishes she could see the restoration of the then-deteriorating monument during her lifetime, Billy Mann, development director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo, contacted Matt Aberl, field representative of Bricklayers Local 3, to ask for his union’s help.
The bricklayers and allied craftworkers’ union put the finishing touches — a sealant to protect the monument from damage — on the monument last weekend after working on the edifice the first two Saturdays in June. The work involved several bricklayers and the donation of equipment and construction material, including a cherry picker, from local construction companies.
Local 3 members have a history of volunteering their time to help with local community projects, including a restoration of the monument “way, way back,” Mrs. Iles said.
“I was so grateful when they told me they were going to do it. At least I know that's done,” Mrs. Iles said. “It’s a beautiful monument, one of the focal points of Woodlawn.”
Though the Toledo Newsboys Association did not officially become the Boys Club of Toledo until 1942, Mr. Gunckel and his legacy are “the foundation of the local boys’ club movement,” Mr. Mann said.
Wishing to help the rowdy newsboys who frequented his train station become productive citizens, Mr. Gunckel, a railroad ticket taker, invited 102 of the newsies to a Christmas dinner in 1892, later encouraging the newsboys to form an organization. As members of the newly formed association, Toledo newsboys learned to hold each other accountable, and stick to basic guidelines, such as no swearing, no stealing, and no smoking or drinking to maintain their memberships.
In 1906, Toledo Newsboys Association affiliated with 52 other local organizations to form the Federated Boys Clubs in Boston — the start of the national boys’ club movement.
“He was just a really great man. ... He took the boys under his wing and tried to show them the right way,” Mrs. Iles said.
Today, Mr. Gunckel’s legacy continues to live on in the mission and traditions of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Toledo. The club still hosts an annual Christmas party for children throughout the Toledo community.
Just like in 1892, each child receives a candy cane and an orange — gifts of the season.
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