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Jewell Cardwell: Akron family has annual reunion that dates back to 1938

By Jewell Cardwell
Beacon Journal columnist

’Tis the season for reunions — school, camp and family. Without question, the greatest of these is family.

“Annual family reunions, I guess, are perishable things, like people,” Ellet High School graduate Jim Weyrick now of Schuamburg, Ill., lamented in a recent letter. “Interest in both wanes as we age and pass.

“So it is remarkable that the I.J. Ray Family Union No. 75 is still being held (Sunday) at Wingfoot Lake State Park.”

Quite possibly it will be the last as interest and attendance is way down among the younger generation, Weyrick noted.

“Back on Sunday, Aug. 7, 1938, Israel Jacob Ray first had a picnic with some of his 11 children, their spouses and children.’’ he said. “A widowed, casual laborer from Upshur County, W.Va., Ray announced that his descendants should gather every year on the first Sunday in August. He died in 1953, but the reunions have kept going. …

“Among the living descendants none are rich or famous … no star celebrities to meet. The great-great-grandchildren have few memories of the older family. There’s little incentive to attend or interest to carry on the tradition.

“Known family led normal lives. They worked, bought cars and homes, raised families, made gardens and dinners, retired and passed. Some went to college, one becoming a university president, another an ordained minister. Most went to church. Far as I know, none to prison. …

“My mother, Helen Weyrick, 87, is one of the surviving grandchildren. But she fell June 22 and is at Pebble Creek Rehabilitation Center.” She won’t be able to attend this year.

Weyrick — who looks forward to traveling from his home outside Chicago to the annual get-togethers — is so fond of “home” that he still remains a loyal fan of the Cleveland Indians.

Here’s hoping something happened over the weekend that reignites the spark in the descendents of I.J. Ray, and they will not only come again but also be anxious to do so. And I hope it sparks in other families the need to reconnect on an annual basis to learn about their history.

Family historian and Akron Public Library employee Mike Elliott, formerly of Akron and now of Mogadore, said the reunions generally consist of potluck dinners, children playing and elders catching up on birthdays, deaths and new jobs, and talking about old times.

Cousins celebrate

Happy 65th birthday to three cousins the Beacon Journal trumpeted at the time of their births as “Triplet Cousins.”

Phyllis M. Antonino brought me up to speed.

“In 1948, Aug. 5th to be exact, I was born. The next day, Aug. 6th, my cousin Marie Campanale was born, and on Aug. 7th, my cousin Richard Leonard was born. Even more unique our mothers are sisters. We were born within 34 hours of each other. …

She said they were featured in the Beacon Journal “when we turned one, when we were entering kindergarten (1953) and when we turned 40 (1988) … By the grace of God we are alive and well.

“A little added uniqueness, Marie’s sister Phyllis Jean was born five years later on Marie’s birthday — Aug. 6, 1953,” Antonino said.

Baby grows up

Emily (Zido) Anderson of Canton shared a now-for-the-rest-of-the-story update straight from the Beacon Journal’s archives:

“I just wanted to give you a follow-up on the 1930 Beacon Journal front page story about the infant Lelia Ferguson, who as a toddler accidentally inhaled a chocolate-covered peanut at a barbershop where her father had taken her for her first real haircut! They were reporting the baby was suffering from pneumonia and frantic efforts were being made to get the peanut evacuated from the baby’s lung …

“Well, that baby, Leila Ferguson Zido, my mother, is celebrating her 85th birthday at her home in [Akron’s] Firestone Park!

“We will, of course, help her celebrate it because she suffers a little short-term memory loss from a stroke she had 10 years ago. She can’t believe she’s 85!

“Believe it or not, she saved the newspapers and the peanut her dad had kept in a small vial, all of this time! The peanut is a shrunken dot for all of the hassle it caused.”

By the way, Mrs. Zido was a bookkeeper before she married, then a housewife and mother of five, a Sunday school teacher and a grandmother of six.

Birthday bash

Edward W. Cutcher shared yet another mega family celebration planned for later this month.

Cutcher married into the family and is not technically or biologically related to any of the parties except through love:

Here’s a list of those being celebrated who had or are having birthdays this year at the mega birthday party:

• Tyler Phillips of Akron — age 10 — the oldest great-grandson.

• Christine Kreitzburg of Akron — 30 — oldest granddaughter and Tyler’s mother.

• Lori Kreitzburg of Akron — 50 — Cutcher’s daughter through marriage, Christine’s mother and Tyler’s grandmother.

• Ed Cutcher of Clinton— 70.

• Mary Kelley of St. Luke Lutheran Community — Portage Lakes — 100 (on Aug. 29).

Theater and dinner

Caorl Eutsey, artistic director of The Village – I AM Theater, is over-the-moon excited about a new theater venture:

“It has been often stated that it takes a village to raise a child. Here in Akron, theater is available through Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts and Firestone Park Learning Center to name a few programs. In an attempt to become a village, we offer theater to at-risk children as well as the developmentally disabled.

“Our first quest is designed to introduce theater to the developmentally disabled in a program designed to help them with motor skills, diction, value of self and others, commitment, focus and dedication to complete tasks. A theatrical presentation with dinner is planned for 2:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Front Porch, 798 Grant St., Akron. Seating is limited. Cost is $7. To make a reservation or for more information, please email or call 234-200-6648.’’

Kids camp

Big, beautiful bouquets to the staff and volunteers at the Royal Family Kids Camp for all of the wonderful work they do to help abused and abandoned children. There are eight such camps in Ohio, with the closest being in Cuyahoga Falls at Northampton United Methodist Church and Canton at the Church of the Lakes.

Following is a note of thanks submitted by a grateful Norton grandparent whose grandson attended the camp:

“Special thanks always to Dr. Jim and Becky Frye who are just awesome people! They have been so good to our grandson who attended his 4th and regrettably his last year. When the kids are going into 6th grade they ‘graduate.’ Thanks also to caring counselors who take time out of busy schedules to be with these kids for the week! … Everyone went home with a new bookbag full of school supplies, toys, T-shirts and a special book all about them with [pictures] that were taken during the week. A lot of time and thought goes into these memory books. We’re hoping when our grandson is 16, he will go back as a counselor-in-training to pay it forward. Thanks to all who donated all of these things! So many would never be able to go to camp and at no cost to the camper’s family.”

Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or


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