Unique Heights people

To the Editor: 

I’ve been meaning to submit a contribution to your newspaper ever since you called for volunteers to tell readers about unique Heights people.

In the 1980s, I owned a home near Noble and Mayfield, and enjoyed the neighbors and activities. When my company left town and I could no longer pay mortgage and taxes, I had to sell. I moved to Hessler Road where I met and worked with—on the Hessler Street Fair—many interesting and unique Heights characters. I think a bit of historical lore about Heights residents would enhance [its] reputation as a creative cauldron for those, past and present, who [have contributed to] Greater Cleveland.

Here are a few notables, most of whom you never hear about, but who contributed to Cleveland in general, and to the Heights and University Circle in particular:

George Foley, ragtime composer, and [pianist with] the Night Owls jazz band, which plays the clubs and entertainment venues of Cleveland, including the Museum of Art;

Lee Batdorf, all-round social and political activist, son of Emerson Batdorf, the former drama critic of the Plain Dealer;

Walt Schmidt, avant-garde artist and colorful Coventry character, who walked his cats on a string through the neighborhood, and whose motto was "I did it my way!"

Martin Juredine, former owner of the Barking Spider Tavern, who gave many musical groups (some now famous, at least in Cleveland) their first big break;

David Ralph Delaney, a social activist who was killed while photographing deficient conditions at a housing project;

Daniel Thompson, [the first] poet laureate [for Cuyahoga County], who, poor himself, gathered food from stores and restaurants to pass on to those [even] less fortunate;

Loren Weiss, former Cleveland Heights poet laureate, who was working on an autobiography of his eventful life when he died;

Robert Banks, groundbreaking, surrealistic, prize-winning cinematographer;

Tim Ryan, longtime commercial photographer, who once owned a Heights pub, which, although now gone, is remembered fondly as a meeting place for bon vivants.

Others, who live(d) or worked in Cleveland Heights are Charlie Oberndorf, writer of science fiction, who now teaches; Sarah Willis, whose father, Kirk, was a director with the Cleveland Play House Repertory of the 1950s; Neil Chandler, whose CSU workshop in writing produced such authors as the above mentioned Sarah Willis and Charlie Oberndorf, as well as Erin O'Brien Nowjack; and John Stark Bellamy, author of They Died Crawling and other books on Northern Ohio crime, misadventures and woe;

Finally, last but not least, Harvey Pekar, essayist, author of American Splendor, TV personality, and subject of a Hollywood movie.

Unfortunately Walt Schmidt, Martin Juredine, Daniel Thompson, Harvey Pekar and Loren Weiss are no longer with us. I'm sure they've taken their places in that heavenly group of illustrious contributors to the human condition who have gone before. May the others join them when their time comes—but not too soon, please.

In remembrance.

Lawrence Forbes

Lawrence Forbes

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Volume 6, Issue 11, Posted 12:51 PM, 10.31.2013