George J. Usher #1: The Launch

June 25, 2019 10 Comments

George J. Usher T-shirt 1970s

Do you ever have that moment, that idea, where things just click? 

That happened to me last winter.  

My mission of Coastal Cleveland has always held strong: “enjoy the simple life.”

If you follow my Instagram page, you know that I love boating, the beach, the lake, my family, my dog, my home and "just being." The idea of slowing down and loving the simple parts of each day comes from idyllic childhood in Lakewood, Ohio. My summer consisted of leaving early in the morning to catch my softball game, hopping on my bike (still in softball gear) to head to Foster Pool for the entire day, biking home for dinner, playing kick the can at dusk with the neighborhood kids until my mom's unmistakeable whistle would call me home for the day. This was what I did almost every single summer, year after year. 

From kindergarten through middle school, my summer mornings were spent on the the ball field. I was the pitcher for my team and everything I needed to know about life, I learned on that pitchers mound. I learned about joy and celebration and I learned about sadness and defeat. I felt physical pain from a hit ball smashing into my leg, but I also felt hugs from teammates when I hit a home run. I experienced butterflies and nerves along with sweat and determination. I met childhood friends that are still in my life today and I met strong competitors on the other teams who have also become my lifelong friends. I learned to win, but I also learned to lose. I learned to be kind and to shake hands at the end of every game. I learned how to succeed gracefully and I learned how to fail gracefully. I cherish every moment I spent on that ballfield and I have always carried with me everything I learned there.

In the 1970s and 1980s, my life centered around softball. I looked forward to springtime when my friend would hand me the Lakewood Recreation registration card to fill out, and my mom would sign it, give me $15, and my summer was set. 

I remember gathering for our first practice, eager to find out what color t-shirts we got for the season. It was like Christmas morning! Then to come up with a team name! Boo's Boogaloos, the Cobras and several others mixed in between.

What I didn't realize at the time, as I was handed that team shirt year after year was that there was a story behind it. A man behind it. And today, over 40 years after getting my very first team shirt I took the time to find out who it was and why his name was in my life that whole time.

That man was George J. Usher.

George J. Usher, owner of George J. Usher Insurance, Lakewood City Councilman for over 16 years, father and husband, sponsored many Lakewood Recreation youth leagues, primarily the softball program. My husband is a business owner, and I know the dedication and sacrifice that Usher must have made each summer by funding these programs. This generous act took place from the 1960s to the early 2000s.  An amazing gift to the children in Lakewood.

Several months ago, I began to wonder: Do you think he had any idea of the impact he made on my childhood?  In thousands of individual childhoods?  That time when life was simple and primarily consisted of a ball and a bat and a bike?  

Every time Lakewood friends start reminiscing, it is only a matter of time before someone says, "George J. Usher."

So, it’s with great excitement that I’d like to announce Coastal Cleveland's launch of the George J. Usher Insurance-retro inspired t-shirt, complete with Lakewood Youth Softball printed on the back. A tip of the ball cap, if you will, to the man who had such an impact on my life.

I have worked closely with George Usher Jr. since the winter to bring you back the original design that his father had printed on tees decades ago. One of the questions I asked him while working through this project was if he knew why his dad was so passionate about his sponsorship. “Growing up, my father had not had many of the opportunities other children had to participate in athletics, recreational activities, etc.” he said. “So, as an adult, a parent, and then, as a Lakewood city councilman, he always supported public recreation.” 

And where better to see this initiative than at the Lakewood Arts Festival on August 3, 2019? Find me there in the Coastal Cleveland tent!  A portion of the sales of these tees will be donated to Lakewood Recreation to continue the important programs they run each summer keeping kids healthy, happy and safe. To top things off, all of these t-shirts will be printed in Lakewood at Cleveland Printwear on Madison Avenue. 

I am so excited about this project, and I hope you are too. Check back on the Coastal Cleveland blog where I’ll share more about George J. Usher, as I’d love if you all learned more about him as I have over the past 8 months. You will wish you could say thank you to him as I truly truly wish I had the opportunity to. George J. Usher passed away in 1978. He left behind an amazing legacy.

Grab your tee here

Spend $100 and get 20% off your entire order - enter USHER at check-out (applies to all Coastal Cleveland apparel)




10 Responses

Jillian Kittle
Jillian Kittle

July 30, 2019

I loved playing softball every year. So many great memories.

Cindy Richardson (Guker)
Cindy Richardson (Guker)

July 17, 2019

I had the best childhood in Lakewood thanks to George Usher. I lived by Cove Park and loved all the recreation programs, particularly, the softball and swimming. I especially looked forward to every summer and the softball through which I made lifelong friends. The recreation program influenced me so much that I decided to major in municipal recreation and did an internship with the Lakewood Recreation Department. Love your article…thanks for the memories😊

Kellie McDaniel
Kellie McDaniel

June 28, 2019

This warmed my heart so much to read. George J. Usher was my great-grandfather, and I’ve been wanting to learn more about my ancestors. My grandma stumbled upon this article and sent it to me. It’s amazing to think of the impact he had in so many lives <3

If you have any more information about him, I would absolutely love to hear! Feel free to get in touch with me at misesonairte@gmail.com :)

Megan Preputnik
Megan Preputnik

June 27, 2019

Summer in Lakewood in the 80’s was all about softball. Signing up by turning in your rec card, going to your first practice and seeing which friends would be on your team, t-shirt day when the box arrived and we’d wait with crossed fingers hoping we got a good color this year, bike riding across town to games on a dusty field in the hot summer sun, the highs and lows of winning and getting crushed by the other team, being totally bummed out when there was a forfeit and you wouldn’t get to play that day, spending afternoons in parks all over Lakewood tossing the ball around and fielding with your friends making memories to last a lifetime. That’s what comes to mind when someone says the name “George J Usher”. I wish I still had some of my shirts. They were always my favorite and I was proud to wear them. This is such a great idea and I’m so happy the Usher family agreed to let us all share in George’s legacy one more time. Can’t wait to get mine!

Mary Lou Ribar
Mary Lou Ribar

June 27, 2019

Erin, what a fanatastic idea! I’m sure it resonates with thousands.

Kim Mankins
Kim Mankins

June 26, 2019

You are an inspiration Erin. If you lived in Lakewood your whole life as we did you would know George j usher and the softball T-shirt’s. It was truly one of my memories growing up wondering what color t I would get every summer. I love that I can say I grew up in Lakewood I love all my memories growing up . Thank you for the throwback! ❤️

James Nicolay
James Nicolay

June 26, 2019

Along with most of my friends, these t-shirts were the uniform of summer as a kid. I recall more than a few starting out as bright green (or whatever color the team was that year) when we got out of school in the spring and by the time we went back to school in the fall the waist was still green but the shoulders had faded from the sun.Not because they were cheap but simply because they were worn all day, every day!

Wesley A Morgan
Wesley A Morgan

June 25, 2019

Those T-shirts spotted an incredible, unique, sweet, time and place (almost as a kind of punctuation). Play ball! Thank you George J. Usher (RIP 1978).

pam mills
pam mills

June 25, 2019

Wonderful memories and a beautiful story!
I’m sure it will be a “home run” as most of your endeavors🙏
Congrats😘

cathy mcphillips
cathy mcphillips

June 25, 2019

so, so excited that these are finally live! and that we can tell people!! so many incredible memories from lakewood rec softball. everything we did revolved around softball and our friends. proud of you and all you’ve done to make this a reality! xoxo

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