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The Glass Key Awards: Toledo’s History on Display

Special to La Prensa by Sojourner’s Truth Staff


An in-depth lesson in local history took place on Tuesday, December 29, 2009, at the Inverness Club.

On that day, outgoing Mayor Carty S. Finkbeiner, 70, presented the Glass Key Awards to 14 individuals and 15 families in a ceremony dubbed the Toledo Glass Key Awards.


The reception, attended by more than 300 people, was the mayor’s valedictory event after a lifetime of public service and offered him the opportunity to honor families and individuals who have been so instrumental in making Toledo the city it is today.

Ruth Gonzalez


The Sylvestre González family was honored. Ronald García, Mr. & Mrs. Frederick García, Mrs. & Mrs. Teri Mohler, Mr. Joe García, Ms. Suzie Mendoza, John García, Ms. Alice Sutton, Mr. & Mrs. Raymond Garcia were in attendance at the Awards.   


The family moved to Toledo from México (by way of Nebraska) in 1932, and consisted of: father Sylvestre and mother María Rojas González and eventually children: Ruth García, Aurora González, María Sue Campos, Sister María José, Salud Cortez, Francisco, Mercy, Manuel, Federico, Pedro, Antonio, Remedios, Eleanor, Josafina, Sylvestre, and Joseph. Many of these siblings were instrumental in the shaping of Toledo.  


María Rojas González was active in the SS. Peter and Paul Parish. Sylvestre González had been a colonel in Pancho Villa’s Revolutionary Army in México.


Ruth González de García was present for the Awards ceremony with family. She had been previously honored with the César Chávez Humanitarian Award presented by Adelante, Inc. in 2008. In 2009, she was inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame.


A nearby stretch of South Avenue between Broadway and the Anthony Wayne Trail honors Ruth, who also encouraged voter registration and civic participation. Her voter registration drive in the Latino community is credited with having helped elect Marcy Kaptur to her first term in Congress—in November of 1982.


Ruth helped immigrants find housing, employment, and loans. Additionally, she helped new residents with medical needs, legal court interpretation, income tax filing, and several other citizenship-related issues. She was very supportive of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, based in Toledo, and attended many of its rallies and marches.

She successfully lobbied to erect “El Centro Unico,” a community center for neighborhood children and senior citizens. The site was later re-named the Aurora González Community and Family Outreach Center for her sister, the late Aurora González. She and her sister, Aurora, also circulated a neighborhood newsletter for a period of years called “La Voz del Barrio.”


Aurora was the first Latina elected to the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame after her untimely death in 1984.


The late María Sue Campos worked for EOPA [Economic Opportunity Planning Association] and, for many years, functioned as a translator for the courts and migrant centers. On March 31, 2005, she was awarded the César Chávez Humanitarian Award by Adelante, Inc. and the Latino Student Union of the University of Toledo for “giving of herself unselfishly to ensure that Latino children, youth, families, and community had equal access to services, education, and economic opportunities.”


Sister María José is 90, and according to Ruth’s son Fred García, she is the last Ursuline nun who still works in her habit.

Sue Campos


Salud (Sally) González de Cortez has made working with Seniors a cornerstone of her life.


Billie Johnson of the Area Office on Aging was one of eight presenters for the awardees. During her introduction of the González family, Johnson noted that the family had long been “committed to making the city a better place for all of us to live and in improving opportunities for children, families, and seniors.”


Jack Ford, et al.

The Fords – Jack and Cynthia who host Coffee with the Fords on WGTV – were honored as a family along with, among others, the Armstrongs, the Adams and a trio of African-American pastors who have led their churches for a total of about a century and a half – Revs. I.J. Johnson of St. Marks Missionary Baptist, Robert Culp of The First Church of God and John E. Roberts of Indiana Avenue Missionary Baptist.


“You probably better than anyone in here know the irony of our receiving this award tonight here as you make your exit,” said former Mayor Jack Ford, both a long-time ally and opponent of Finkbeiner. “It’s been 35 years of a long run between us and I will let it go at that.”

The Armstrong family includes U.S. Magistrate Vernelis Armstrong, who was sworn into her post in 1994 and her son, Dr. Anthony Armstrong, MD, a past president of the Academy of Medicine of Toledo and Lucas County.

Samantha Adams was the first minority woman to be certified by the Ohio State Medical Board as a chiropractor and is still the only African-American chiropractor in Toledo. She is also a former president of the Toledo Board of Education

Her three daughters are Dr. Karen Adams-Ferguson, an obstetrician-gynecologist and Cecelia Adams and Denise Adams Onyia, both former Toledo Public School administrators. They also comprise the family’s popular gospel group.

Various attendees

As to the trio of African-American ministers, “These three among them have led their families for a century and a half,” said Finkbeiner in his introduction. “The crises they had had to deal with are unbelievable. For decades [in the African-American community] there was no one to call on but the ministers.”


“What a joy it is to be included,” said Culp speaking for the three ministers. “The history of a community is but the biography of a few men and women. Our reward is all about you.”


The other families honored during the evening included: Frs. Robert and Martin Donnelly, Roman Catholic priests; the Savage Family, who helped lead fund-raising efforts for a University of Toledo facility and who have founded one of the nation’s largest insurance and financial investment firms; the Andersons of The Andersons Inc; Tom and Betsy Brady of Plastic Technologies, Inc; Ann and Steve Stranahan of the Stranahan Foundation; the Ruppert family of Anne Grady Corp’s Prescribed Pediatric Center and the Medical College of Ohio; the Yenrick Family (Robert has coached sports in Toledo for more than 60 years); the McMaster family of First Solar, Inc and the Block family of The Blade and Block Communications.


“Our role is not always to the liking of everyone in town or here,” said John Robinson Block in accepting the award for his family who gained ownership of The Blade in 1926. “But I sincerely hope that over time it’s generally recognized that we’ve been fair and have practiced journalism in a way that I think leads to the betterment of the city of Toledo.”


Individuals honored
The individuals honored included a number of minorities: Baldemar Velásquez, Theresa M. Gabriel, Juanita Greene, Crystal Ellis, Judge Charles Doneghy, and Yehia “John” Shousher.


Other individual recipients included: U.S. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Jim Murray, Bruce Baumhower, Justice Andy Douglas, James Hoffman, retired Judge Andy Devine, Edward Reiter, George Jones III, and Jan Kilbride.


Baldemar Velásquez
“Baldemar Velásquez has worked ceaselessly for the cause of human rights and has been a powerful force for progressive change,” said presenter Keith Burwell, president of Toledo Community Foundation, of the founder and president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC).

Velásquez arrived in northwest Ohio from Texas with his migrant farmworker parents and eight siblings in 1954, eventually settling in Putnam County. The first member of his family to graduate from college, Velásquez co-founded FLOC in 1967 while still in college.

Judge Charles Doneghy
“Judge Charles Doneghy has spent his entire life advancing the cause of justice,” said attorney Fritz Byers in his introduction of the long-time jurist. “He has a deep commitment to the rights of all citizens and is the embodiment of decency and humility – an inspiration to us all.”

Judge Charles Doneghy and wife Lera

Doneghy earned his law degree from the University of Toledo’s Law School in 1965 and after several years in private practice became a judge in Toledo Municipal Court in 1977 and was appointed to the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas in 1984. He has been elected in 1994, 2000, and 2006 to six-year terms.


Judge Doneghy was a long time friend, associate, law partner, and fellow judge of the late Judge Joseph A. Flores.


U.S. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur has been extremely instrumental to the development of Toledo and its Latino community since being elected to office in 1982.

Gabriel and Greene

“These two have made a huge difference,” said Finkbeiner of Gabriel and Greene, both of whom serve in his administration.


“I was able to change lives,” said Greene, executive director of the Board of Community Relations in her acceptance of the award. Greene. A former banker, Greene joined city government in 2000 as housing commissioner before becoming director of the BCR


Gonzalez Family

Gabriel has been in public service for her entire career joining the Ohio Department of Welfare as a PBX operator in 1957. In 1998 she was appointed director of the Department of Streets, Bridges and Harbor. When Finkbeiner returned to the mayor’s office in 2006, Gabriel was appointed director of Human Resources and was named assistant chief of staff in 2008.


“I feel a little embarrassed,” said Ellis in accepting his award. “This community has given me so much richness and so much quality of life.”


Ellis, after a stint with the YMCA, joined Toledo Public Schools in 1969 as a teacher and rose through the ranks to eventually be named superintendent of the district in 1991. He retired in 1996, but the interim years have seen him repeatedly called back to serve in a variety of positions with TPS. The district just can’t seem to move on without the former basketball star. He just can’t seem to say no.

“My richness was in giving not receiving,” said Ellis.


Editor’s Note: Rico of La Prensa and La Prensa Senior Correspondent Alan Abrams contributed to this report. See more details on the Internet:  https://laprensatoledo.com/Stories/2006/April%205,%202006/Baldemar%20Velasquez%20honored.htm











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