When Terry Jay Breymaier walked into the Sunrise Park and Banquet Center for the 16th Annual Prism Award ceremony Wednesday night, he started shaking hands and welcoming friends like he usually does.
Breymaier had no idea what was to come towards the end of the ceremony.
For the first time, the Eastern Maumee Bay Chamber of Commerce was awarding a Person of the Year award, only no one knew who the nominations were except the judges.
This newest award is to identify, honor and reinforce the activities of exceptional, caring citizens whose service or performance positively contributes to the quality of life in the Eastern Maumee Bay Region.
When Oregon Economic Development Foundation director Gary Thompson, an emcee at the event, found out that the award was to be presented to Breymaier for his years supporting Pearson MetroPark, Thompson made the decision that he was going to present it. Years earlier, Breymaier had presented Thompson with a scholarship award upon his graduation from Waite High School.
Thompson, who has been OEDF director three years, was raised in East Toledo and attended Sacred Heart School before heading to Waite.
Breymaier served as president of the East Toledo Club from 1988 through 1990. As a board member, he helped create both the Housing East Toledo Corporation and the Friends of Pearson Park, where he served as president for 15 years. He has also served on numerous MetroPark committees and is currently chairman of the Pearson North Capital Campaign Committee.
Breymaier, who has been employed nearly 45 years at Eggleston-Meinert-Pavley Funeral Homes, watched Thompson grow up. Breymaier would often watch Thompson as a youth enjoying Pearson Park — which Thompson described as a haven for a youth from a poor neighborhood.
Thompson described how his family would travel to and from The Cleveland Clinic to visit his ailing mother, and then he compared those hardships he dealt with to the good times he had at Pearson.
“I grew up dirt poor,” Thompson said. “I lived in like 13 houses up to the time I was 10-years-old. Wendy’s was a night out.”
“We went through a time when we didn’t have any electricity or heat in our house. We would bring in a bright metal bucket we could fill with warm water to take a bath. Every once in a while (today) I take a cold shower to remind myself, ‘Hey, I have it pretty good in Oregon,’” Thompson continued.
“Going to Pearson Park you’re just a person there communing with nature — no different than anyone else,” Thompson added.
Then Thompson began describing a person who could always be seen at East Toledo Club luncheons, was active in the Oregonian Club, and enjoys history and theater. Once he began describing this man’s support of Pearson, almost everyone knew who he was talking about.
“’He’s really on his own mission without pay,’ as (Ohio National Guard 180th Fighter Wing pilot) Lieutenant Colonel (Chris) Belli said,” Thompson continued, his voice broken and his eyes welling with tears. “He’s president of Friends of Pearson, and he goes out of his way to help maintain Pearson Park.
“I never knew there was a guy like Terry Breymaier keeping an eye on that park. What means something to me, is, I’ve got to thank him for his effort and thank him for being here. Terry Breymaier, I hope you brought a big speech, because we’re expecting one,” Thompson said.
Breymaier walked up stage, and responded, “Surprise! Surprise! I didn’t know and I really appreciate the award here tonight.
“Everybody knows what Pearson means to me,” Breymaier continued. “It was a thrill when I asked Gary to be on the Pearson committee, and he’s been a worthy contributor. I’m not usually speechless, but I am tonight. I am just totally shocked.”
The MetroParks of the Toledo Area are preparing to celebrate Pearson Park’s 75th anniversary on August 30, 2009. The highlight will be the dedication of the Johlin Cabin at the new Pearson Historic Area.
This $1 million recreated swamp has been sculpted and funded by the Ohio Wetlands Foundation. The non-profit group Breymeier leads, Friends of Pearson, has planted more than 102,900 indigenous trees and shrubs. The foundation has also created shallow pools, relocated the ditch that ran alongside Wynn Road and added a small pond.
The Pearson North Committee is still seeking donations and in-kind construction services. MetroParks is seeking period artifacts to decorate the cabin and bring to life the history of early settlers.
Directly descended from the pioneering Navarre family, Breymaier enjoys relating their history as one of the two famous brothers, Peter and Robert Navarre.
Breymaier’s career in the funeral industry began with a summer job at the Eggleston Meinert Funeral Home following his junior year at Waite. He continued to work summers and part time as he attended Ohio State University. Upon his graduation from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, Breymaier was invited to join Eggleston-Meinert as a licensed funeral director and embalmer.
Breymaier was inducted in the Waite High School Hall of Fame in 2008. He was also awarded the Oregon Kiwanis Club’s Frederic C. Hansen Humanitarian Award and the Exchange Club of Greater Maumee Bay’s Book of Golden Deeds Award.
He is married to Mary Nassar Breymaier, also a 1965 Waite High School graduate. The family also includes a son, Rob (Bharathi) and grandson, Vivek, daughter, Meredith (Carrie), and grandson, Harrison.