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.