If you happened to make it out to Harbor View Yacht Club’s annual regatta, you would have seen some members and visitors parading around in comic tee-shirts — “See How Far 60 Years Will Get You” — celebrating the club’s 60th anniversary.
It’s an anniversary that sort of snuck-up on some of the club membership this year. But nonetheless, the club is celebrating the 60-year milestone, meanwhile other longtime members are using the time to talk about the way things use to be.
“This regatta was special and our turnout was better, in part, because it is our 60th anniversary,” said Frank Thomas, the yacht club’s 2012 commodore. “I incorporated the anniversary into my commodore theme for the year. Our auxiliary has some items available that will commemorate our anniversary. I am sure we will do more as the year progresses.”
(L-R) Frank Thomas, 2012 HVYC
For longtime members who grew up at the club like Jim Keaton and Oregon Fire Chief Ed Ellis, the anniversary is a reason to look back, show the club’s contribution to the surrounding area, and remind newer members of how the club developed over the years — sometimes under tragic circumstances.
For Jim Keaton, an Oregon resident, the club has special significance. It was Jim Keaton’s grandfather, Maynard Keaton, who in 1948 got together with 40 other people to form the Harbor View Boating and Sportsman’s Club. It wasn’t until March 14, 1952 that articles of incorporation were filed with the State of Ohio by Maynard Keaton and two other trustees — Clarence Ankelic and Otis Redmond. The filing was approved a month later by then-Ohio Secretary of State Ted Brown, marking the official beginning of the club. In September 1957, the club voted to change the name to Harbor View Yacht Club.
It was Maynard Keaton, who as the Village of Harbor View mayor, convinced Toledo Edison to create the modern-day channel that now leads to the club. In 1953, the club needed better access and protection from channel erosion caused by Lake Erie’s famous northeast winds. At the same time, the village was pleading for help to reclaim part of a nearby marsh area as a summer recreational area.
Mayor Keaton suggested the location to Toledo Edison officials for the modern-day intake channel. But it didn’t end there. Through what Jim Keaton described as “old fashion horse trading”, Mayor Keaton was able to get the channel created at no cost to village residents. It was a project that could have cost upwards of $1 million, according to some accounts.
Jim Keaton says other family members were involved with the club besides his grandfather.
“My dad, Bill Keaton, was a member along with uncles and other relatives,” he said. “I was born in 1963 and hung around the club with my family. I became a social member and then a full member. Through it all, my fondest memory over the years was the time spent with my father working on boats. There was definite father-son bonding that took place at the club.”
For Ellis, who started hanging around the club in 1963 with his parents Ed and Nellie Ellis, the 60th anniversary is all about camaraderie.
“Younger members don’t realize that this started as a working man’s club. It was nothing to come out here on the weekends and have work parties to get things done. I think that is something that has been lost over the years,” he said.
‘Hoss, I won’t see you again’
Ellis emotionally recalls one of the toughest days he had as club member — February 8, 1970 — when club member Lee DeKay was killed while doing some work on a new retaining wall.
“Workers were pulling piling out to put in a new wall. I had to leave for a bit but the crew kept working. I was at home when I saw fire and rescue vehicles heading to the club on a report of several people injured. The boom on a cable crane buckled. Three club members who were on the ice started running to the shore for safety. One worker, Al “Curly” Chaffee, suffered a skull fracture when the boom glanced off the back of his head. Lee DeKay, 51, was struck in the back, knocked down, and pinned. He suffered leg fractures and multiple injuries. I got there as they were loading him in the ambulance. He looked at me and said, ‘Hoss,’ — which was my nickname — ‘I won’t see you again buddy.’ He died at St. Charles Hospital hours later.”
Younger members like Dan Smith and Tim Weiland echo Ellis’ feelings of camaraderie.
“When I first joined and needed help working on my boat, Tim — who I hardly knew — took time to help me,” said Smith.
The yacht club has also been a trailblazer in narrowing the gender gap in boating. In 2002, the club elected its first female commodore — Donna Bashore. In 2006, HVYC became one of the first clubs to have a mother and a daughter join as full members. Cassie Mulligan had been a member of the club since 2002, and in December 2006, her mother Betty Osenbaugh joined the club.
“Harbor View has recognized that there are women boat owners and women captains. It’s one of the reasons I pursued a membership,” said Osenbaugh.
In 2007, Marie Cousino, past auxiliary president and past international satin gavel president, rekindled the annual river cruise for developmentally-disabled. The special day took nearly 40 Lucas County adults from the Wiley Homes and treated them to a cruise on the Maumee River and a picnic at the club. The over 125 people volunteered to make the day happen, including over 12 boat owners and other members who went on the trip to ensure a safe and fun experience.
“It is truly a special time every year for them. They look forward to this all year long. As soon as we are done, they wanted to go again. The joy and expression on their faces is priceless,” Cousino said.
So 60 years later, the dream of Maynard Keaton and 40 other people that started in a marsh near the Village of Harbor View continues.
Over the years, a new club house was built and then later expanded. Newer docks were constructed. The north shore of the channel developed as membership grew. In 2012, the club boasts over 250 full members, not including auxiliary and social memberships. In 2012 so far, 25 new people have joined the boating ranks at Harbor View.
“I just hope the economy continues to improve and people can afford to enjoy recreational boating and our greatest natural resource — our area waterways,” said Osenbaugh.