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Tag: Williams County

My Hungarian Grandparents, Paul and Mary Gerencser

gerencser family 1950's
Paul and Mary Gerencser and Children, 1950s

The Gerencser Family, circa 1950s Front: Robert (my Dad) and Irene Middle: Grandpa Paul Rear: Paul (Paulie), Grandma Mary, Mary, and Helen (As you can readily see, I look nothing like my dad and his family)

Dates and ages are approximate. My recollections are not what they once were. One reason for writing this post is to have a written record of these things before I someday can no longer remember them.

My grandparents immigrated from Hungary in the early part of the 20th century. I don’t know much about them. I was six years old when they died in 1963. Paul was born in 1888 and died of a heart attack in February of 1963. Mary, six years younger than her husband, died of a heart attack six weeks later.

Paul and Mary Nemett Gerencser (grr IN’ sir or grinsir) immigrated through Ellis Island and settled in Ohio. (I don’t think Paul and Mary were their given names.) They originally settled in the Akron/Cleveland area and then moved to Northwest Ohio. Best I can tell from what few official records remain, Paul and Mary Gerencser owned a farm in Defiance County, lost it during the Depression, and then bought a 100-acre farm in Williams County on the northwest corner of Williams County Road 14 and Williams-Defiance County Line Road. It was here I first met my grandparents and where they died.

mary gerencser 1919
Grandma Mary Gerencser, 1919

Paul and Mary Gerencser had six children: Irene, Paul Jr, Steven, Helen, Mary, and Robert. Steven died in a farming accident (he fell off the tractor and was hit by a plow or disc) as a young boy. Irene died in 2009 at the age of 87. Paul (Paulie) died in 2012 at the age of 88. Marry died in 2018 at the age of 88. Robert, my father, died in 1987 at the age of 49. Helen is still living.

The Gerencser homestead was torn down decades ago. The new owners built a ranch home in its place. The old farmhouse was a white two-story structure.  I do remember a few things about the house. There was an enclosed back porch and Grandma kept big sacks of flour and sugar on the porch. I also remember the wood-fired stove. I think there was a water pump at the kitchen sink. The house did not have indoor plumbing. There was an outhouse for necessary daily functions.

mary paulie paul robert gerencser 1940's
Mary, Paulie, Paul, Robert Gerencser, 1940s

I do have a vivid memory of the creek that ran a few hundred yards from the back of the house. One year, Beaver Creek overran its banks, and floodwaters turned a portion of the low-lying farm ground into a lake. To a little boy, the flood water looked like a huge lake, but I am sure it was probably much smaller.

I don’t remember anything about my grandparents’ demeanor. I do remember they spoke Hungarian to each other. I don’t know if they spoke English at home. My father, aunts, and uncle, were schooled at the nearby one-room schoolhouse that sat on the southeast corner of Williams County Road 14 and  US Highway 6. The one-room schoolhouse was torn down many years ago. My dad also went to school at Farmer, Ney, and Bryan. I do not know where any of my aunts or uncle attended school.

mary robert gerencser 1930's
Mary and Robert Gerencser, 1930s

Paul and Mary Gerencser settled in northwest Ohio, Williams County because a number of Hungarian immigrants already lived here. Derek Harvey, a Toledo, Ohio man, wrote an interesting article about the Hungarians who settled in NW Ohio:

An important immigrant group to Toledo and Northwest Ohio were the people that came from the area in Central Europe known as the Magyars. This area stretched from Poland to the North to Belgrade in the southern region. The area would also encompass the large area known as Transylvania. (No Dracula jokes!) With the redrawing of borders after the first World War much would have been considered Hungary would have changed. Many large populations after this time would live in Romania, Slovakia and northern Yugoslavia. Some groups prior to World War 1 would be misidentified as Hungarians.

The largest group of this ethnic group 1.7 million came to the United States starting in 1880. Many would locate in the Birmingham neighborhood in Toledo. In 1900 there were almost 17,000 people living in Ohio that claimed this nationality. By 1920 the number would increase to 73,181. The primary group of immigration was males under the age of 30. Almost 90% of them were literate, but would take dangerous jobs that involved using their hands. This job areas in Toledo included automotive, glass and railroad industries. They tended to only come to the United States temporarily and over 50% would return to their homeland. Many would come back or just stay.

The religion of the Hungarians in Toledo was Catholic. Their home church in town St Stephen’s Catholic Church. The early population of this church was almost all Hungarian. This is a valuable place to check for church records for people of this nationality. The church was the center of their socialization activities. It would later become the center of their fraternal organizations. In Toledo a popular event was the Grape Harvest Festival and the Easter egg sprinkling. These groups and events played a important part of the assimilation of Hungarians into the fabric of Toledo. Family units in Hungarian early life extended beyond the immediate family. It was referred to as the “sib” and included aunts, uncles, cousins and godparents who might not be relatives.

A common practice after 1910 was for Hungarian families to take in recent immigrants primarily males. The husband and the boarders would work outside the home while the women would take care of the chores necessary for maintaining a household. The diet would lean towards meat and very few dairy, fruit or vegetables. Wonderful opportunities exist for more understanding of Hungarians genealogy. Great strides have taken place in many parts of the United States to get a better understanding of this group. There heritages are being preserved and new resources are being discovered daily.

From time to time I will run into local Hungarians who remember my dad or my aunts and uncle. Mary and Helen sang on the radio in the 1940s, and every so often someone will ask me if I am related to them. When someone notices my last name and asks me, are you related to ____________, the answer is always yes. All the Gerencsers in northwest Ohio are related to one another. I have second and third cousins in the Chicago, Benton Harbor Michigan, and Akron/Cleveland area whom I have never met. Locally, I have a few first and second cousins.

mary gerencser and pickles
Grandma Mary Gerencser with the Family Cat, Pickles.

When Aunt Helen with Alzheimer’s was over at our house several years ago, she didn’t know who the woman in the picture above was, but she with delight said, oh, there’s my cat Pickles.

I am not certain what my grandparent’s religion was, but I suspect they were Catholics.

I regret not taking time to know my family history while those who could tell it to me were still alive. My dad died 35 years ago, and my grandparents died almost 60 years ago. Such is the lament of an old man. As death comes nearer and nearer to my door, I think more and more about the past. I wonder . . . what was it like for my dad to grow up on a farm? I will never be able to ask questions like this. Sometimes, when we drive down US 15/127 to Bryan, I gaze off to the left as we pass the Williams-Defiance County Line. I try to picture my grandparents, my dad, and my aunts and uncle, working the ground and taking care of the farm. I wonder about their hardships, about the hard work it took to eke out a living from the flat as an ironing board land of Williams County Ohio.

I have lots of questions…

I originally wrote this post eight years ago. Since then, I have learned that “Dad” was not my biological father; that my father was a truck driver who had a brief fling with my 17-year-old mother; that I have half brothers and sisters. Regardless, for good or ill, Robert Gerencser was my father. (Please see Questions: Bruce, How Was Your Relationship with Your Father?)

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Montpelier (Ohio) Ministerial Association Pretends COVID-19 Doesn’t Exist

gaylynn-harris

The Montpelier (Ohio) Ministerial Association, in conjunction with the association’s Day of Prayer task force, plans to hold an indoor prayer service at House of Prayer on May 6th. The Bryan Times reports (behind paywall):

After local events celebrating the National Day of Prayer were canceled or moved online last year due to fears surrounding the pandemic, the Montpelier Ministerial Association is planning an in-person event this year.

The House of Prayer, at 115 Empire St., Montpelier, will host the event at 9 a.m. on National Day of Prayer, Thursday, May 6.

And while the Williams County Health Department has pleaded with the community to continue wearing masks and social distancing amid a recent bump in COVID-19 cases, event organizers said attendees need not adhere to the experts’ advice.

“Certainly if someone wants to wear a mask they may, but we don’t stress it at all,” said GayLynn Harris, with the association’s Day of Prayer task force.

Fortunately, not all local ministers have disregard for their congregants and fellow residents. The Bryan Area Ministerial Association plans to have a Day of Prayer too, but theirs will be held outside at the Williams County Courthouse.

The Bryan Times reports (behind paywall):

The Bryan Area Ministerial Association will be sponsoring a National Day of Prayer service taking place at the gazebo on the courthouse lawn in downtown Bryan, at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 6.

While I consider such events as little more than public displays of masturbation (in which I never participated during the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry), I do appreciate the fact that Bryan ministers show a modicum of care and respect for the people of Williams County — atheists and agnostics, included.

The Montpelier Ministerial Association could do otherwise, but they won’t. They could join with their brothers and sisters in Christ on the courthouse lawn, but they won’t. They could meet at the Montpelier Park, but they won’t. They could listen to the CDC and the Williams County Health Department (and obey Romans 13 in doing so), but they won’t. Why? COVID-19 doesn’t exist in Williams County.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Short Stories: Bruce, the Moral Crusader and the Massage Parlor

bruce polly gerencser our fathers house west unity
Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio Circa 2000

After resigning from Olive Branch Christian Union Church in Fayette, Ohio in 1995, I rented the old library building in nearby West Unity and started Grace Baptist Church — later renamed Our Father’s House. I remained the pastor of this church for seven years.

While I became more ecumenical and progressive politically during this time, I remained a fire-breathing moral crusader. West Unity was the last dry (no alcohol sales) community in Ohio. When the American Legion, directly across the street from the church, put an initiative on the local ballot to allow alcohol sales, I decided to make it my personal mission to defeat the measure. I sent out letters to churches, wrote letters to the editors of local newspapers, and went door to door handing out flyers — all in the hope of soundly defeating the ballot issue. Teetotaling Evangelicals, including a handful of church members, rallied around my cause, and sure enough, the issue was defeated. What a great victory for Pastor Bruce and the true Christians who defeated Satan and his army of boozers. It didn’t take me long, however, to learn that I had won the battle but lost the war. In winning, I lost the respect of many people in the community — primarily non-Evangelicals. While Evangelical God-lovers praised my name, liberal Christians, local business owners, bankers, and the like were no longer friendly towards me.

In the late 1990s, a criminal concern out of Chicago opened a massage parlor 10 miles west of our church at Exit One on the Ohio Turnpike. This was the first adult oriented business to ever operate in Williams County. When I learned of its existence, I quickly set out to close it down. I rallied pastors and business owners to my cause, along with my usual shtick of writing letters to local newspapers. The Bryan Times refused to print my letter because I alleged, without evidence, that prostitution was indeed taking place at the business. Other newspapers published my letters.

I also wrote letters to local law enforcement, along with local and state politicians. I drew a clear line in the stand: close this business in the name of God and morality. Little did I know that I was involving myself in an issue that I knew nothing about. I wrongly assumed that law enforcement — namely the Williams County Sheriff’s Department — was sitting on its ass, doing nothing to remove this “vile” establishment from our County.

One day, the phone rang at the church. It was the Sheriff calling for the Bruce, the moral crusader. Boy, was he upset at me. He wanted me to know that I was ruining a joint sting operation between the Sheriff’s office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. When I told the Sheriff that I had no intention of gumming up his operation, he calmed down a bit and politely asked to me end my crusade. And if I did so, I would be invited to the go with them when they raided the massage parlor.

Several weeks later, law enforcement gathered at a motel across the street from the parlor to prepare for the raid. There I was, a definite outsider, little more than someone who got a consolation prize for not fucking things up for them. The raid proved to be quite anti-climatic — pun intended. There were no customers in the massage parlor, just two well-worn Asian women in their late 40s. Seized in the raid were credit cards, condoms, cash, and food stamps. Yes, food stamps. Evidently, the massage parlor took food stamps as payment for services rendered. The parlor employees were later prosecuted on solicitation charges, but, if I remember correctly, served no jail time. This would be the last moral crusade for me. Lessons learned.

My opinions about adult businesses, sex workers, and “morality” changed dramatically over the next two decades. Bruce, the moral crusader died an ignoble death that day at Exit One on the Ohio Turnpike. Instead of focusing on the business itself, I began to think about the women and how the Chicago men they worked for likely coerced them and other women into working at the massage parlor. While I now support legal, consensual sex work, I still wonder about the women arrested during the raid. What kind of life did they have up to that point? What kind of life did they have after their arrests? Did I make life better for them? Or did I just make a bunch of white Evangelical Christians feel morally superior to these women? I suspect I know the answer to these questions.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Local Christian Zealot Daniel Gray Calls Me a Liar in the Local Newspaper

liar liar pants on fire

As sure as the sun comes up in the morning, writing a letter to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News will elicit a response from local Christian zealot Daniel Gray. Here’s my recent letter to the editor:

President Donald Trump knows he has no hope of winning the 2020 election without white Evangelical Christians. In 2016, eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals cast their votes for Trump. For the President to win the upcoming general election, his conservative Christian base must come out in force. While some of Trump’s moral faux pas have caused base erosion, for the most part, Evangelicals continue to stand by their man.

Why do Evangelicals continue to support President Trump? I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. There was a time when Evangelical churches and pastors took resolute stands on moral virtue and ethics — especially for elected leaders. I remember my outrage over President Clinton’s sexual misbehavior and lying while in office. From the pulpit and in letters to the editors of local newspapers, I demanded his immediate removal from office. Twenty years later? Evangelicals now turn a blind eye to the behavior of a president who paid off porn stars, allegedly sexually assaulted women, possibly committed treason, and doesn’t go a day without factually and materially lying to the American people. What changed?

In the 1970s, Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich birthed the Moral Majority. This small, innocuous group morphed into Hydra — a multi-headed monster. Gaining critical mass in the 1990s, these groups forsook their moral underpinnings, choosing instead to imbibe the sewage water of raw political power. All that matters now is keeping control, outlawing abortion, shoving LGBTQ people back in the closet, and establishing a Christian theocracy. Evangelicals even go so far as to paint themselves as a persecuted religious minority. One need only listen to Trump’s recent incoherent “religious freedom” speech at the United Nations to know he has heard his Evangelical base loud and clear.

While it is undoubtedly true that religious persecution happens in many places — including North Korea and Saudi Arabia — Trump blocking the immigration of the primarily Muslim Rohingya people reveals that his recent “religious freedom” speeches are little more than reminders to Evangelicals that he has their back. I entered the ministry in the 1970s. I didn’t know of a preacher who didn’t believe in the separation of church and state. Today? Scores of Evangelicals deny this wall even exists. For this reason, people who genuinely value religious freedom for all — including unbelievers and non-Christians — must fight the religious right’s attempt to redefine “religious freedom.”

Gray quickly responded (behind paywall), defending his peculiar version of Republicanized Christianity and political deity, Donald Trump:

There is no such thing as separation of church and state, and anyone who claims there is is not telling the truth.
The Constitution was ratified in 1787. The very first mention of this myth was in a letter from Jefferson to the Baptist detractors in 1802, 15 years later. It was never mentioned before. To change the Constitution you need a constitutional amendment, not a letter or a decision by the Supreme Court.

Bruce Gerencser claims Trump paid off a porn star, and yet there is no evidence in any form of this. The porn star actually lost her case for lack of evidence, which means even she couldn’t prove it. Every one of the claimed sexual assaults that he claims happened has been disproved or thrown out of court with prejudice.

One of these claims was disproved by American Airlines as the plane it was claimed to have been committed on was not even in service at the time of the “assault” and the armrests on the plane when it was in service were welded down so they couldnt be moved. Gerencser still has not answered why since Trump had a private plane, why he would have been flying commercial.

Even Mueller’s report said there was no treason committed. But people like Gerencser would try to have you believe all their myths.

As for Ms. Singer [local Democrat and friend], she might want to pay attention to reality. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on March 21, 2016 that the Second Amendment protected all forms of weapons and ammo and add ons if they affected the operation of said weapon.

The decision is 577 U.S. (2016) — Jaime Caetano v. Massachusetts, meaning you can’t ban/tax/demand they be moved or made inoperable or regulated out of existence.

I have written several posts in the past about Daniel Gray, Bruce Gerencser, The Ney, Ohio Atheist and My Response to Daniel Gray’s Lies. Gray, in good Christian fashion, despises me, and rarely passes on an opportunity to call me a liar. Writers of letters to the editor may only submit one letter every thirty days. Sometimes, I will note the date of Gray’s last submission and time mine so he has to wait three or four weeks to respond. I know it kills him to not be able to set Bruce, the liberal atheist, “straight.” (There’s not been a time in the past 12 years where Gray has agreed with something I have written.)

I continue to find it astounding that many twenty-first century Evangelicals deny the existence of the separation of church and state; legal protection for churches from government interference if there ever was one. Gray, of course, is a theocrat, and the wall between church and state impedes his attempts and those of his fellow Christians to establish a Fundamentalist theocracy. I have long since given up trying to argue separation of church and state with the Grays of the world. My time and money are better spent supporting groups such as Freedom From Religion Foundation, American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and the American Civil Liberties Union as they defend religious freedom, including the separation of church and state.

As far as Gray’s denial of all-things-Trump, welcome to rural Northwest Ohio — the land of God, Guns, Christianity, and White Republicans. I long ago gave up on arguing politics with local right-wing Christians. Writing letters to the editors of local newspapers is akin to me poking a bear. Dare to write or say anything contrary to the accepted political and religious views, and out come the Daniel Grays of Defiance and Williams Counties. Donald Trump overwhelmingly won rural Northwest Ohio in 2016 (Defiance County: Trump-64%, Clinton-30%, Other-6%), and if he survives impeachment, locals will overwhelmingly vote for him again in 2020. And if he’s impeached? Locals love former Indiana governor and current Vice President Mike Pence even more. And if Pence is impeached too? Then all Hell will break loose. Nancy Pelosi is third in the line of presidential succession. I can only imagine local outrage over such a turn of events. While Obama fared somewhat better here in 2008 (Defiance County: McCain-54%, Obama-44%, Other-2%) and 2012 (Defiance County: Romney-56%, Obama-42%, Other-3%), Republican officeholders at the local and state level won every election. Currently, there’s not one Democratic officeholder in Defiance or Williams Counties. Ofttimes, the local Democratic Party doesn’t even field candidates — in effect giving the seats to Republicans. While the Defiance County Democratic Party (Facebook Page and Website) has shown signs of a pulse of late, local demographic numbers make it almost impossible, presently, for Democrats to win office. The future lies in a mass extinction of aged right-wing Republicans, and younger progressives and Democratic Socialists taking the helm of the local Democratic Party (which is currently mostly controlled by people age 60 and older). I will likely be ashes spread along the shore of eastern Lake Michigan before a local Democrat is elected to office. Cynical? Perhaps, but I choose reality over a liberal fantasy.

I pastored three churches in rural Northwest Ohio: Olive Branch Christian Union in Fayette, Our Father’s House in West Unity, and Montpelier Baptist Church in Montpelier. As a youth, I attended Eastland Baptist Church and First Baptist Church, both in Bryan. The membership of these churches reflected the God, Guns, Christianity, and White Republican demographic. When Democrat Bill Clinton was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives, most local Christians supported the removal of Clinton from office. Why? His immoral behavior with Monica Lewinsky and the numerous conspiracy theories attributed to Clinton and his wife, Hillary. At the time, I railed against Bill Clinton’s immorality, both privately and from the pulpit — Johnson Amendment, be damned. I would like to think that if I were an Evangelical pastor today, that I would hold Trump to a similar account.

Most locals agreed with me when it came to God, morality, and the behavior of the Clintons. What’s changed in the intervening years? Evangelicals, conservative protestants, and right-wing Catholics have sold their souls for bowls of pottage. Instead of being pillars of moral virtue and promoting morality and ethics, many local Christians such as Daniel Gray, have traded these things for political power. There’s no other explanation for their ongoing support of President Trump. No matter what Trump does, the Grays of the world ignore his behavior, choosing instead to concoct and support all sorts of conspiracy theories. Trump was right when he said in January 2016:

I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.

Trump was, of course, talking about the loyalty of his supporters. Trump rightly believed that there was/is nothing he could/can do that would stop Republican voters from voting for him — especially white Evangelical voters. If cavorting with porn stars, paying hush money, grabbing women by the pussy, sexually assaulting women, and lying daily won’t turn locals away from their demigod, nothing will. While I think Trump’s civil war comments are blown out of proportion, there are confederate-flag-waving, racist local Trump supporters who wouldn’t think twice about using Sharron Angle’s “Second Amendment remedy”  to keep their king on his throne.

Such is life in rural Northwest Ohio. You can read local responses to my Letters to the Editor of the Crescent-News here.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Local Residents Threaten to Steal or Destroy Our Bernie Sanders Sign

bernie sanders 2016
Bernie Sanders for President Sign in Our Front Yard

Last July, we purchased a Bernie Sanders sign and placed in our front yard. We live on Ohio State Route 15, a busily traveled road running between Bryan and Defiance. By now, thousands of local residents have seen our sign. While several people have stopped by our home and asked where we got our Bernie sign, it remains the only one we have seen in Defiance and Williams County.

A few hours ago, one of my sons alerted me to an interesting discussion on the Citizens for a Better Williams County Facebook page about stealing local campaign signs. The screenshot that follow is self-explanatory.

stealing bernie sanders sign

Both potential criminals are Republican, and one of them is a devout Evangelical Christian. Evidently, respecting the property rights of others is not a part of their political or moral code. I wonder what they would do if they found out that not only are we Bernie Sanders supporters, we are atheists too?

I doubt that either of these people would steal or damage our sign. We all say stuff on Facebook that we don’t really mean.  That said, IF our Sanders sign comes up missing or is defaced, we will be sure to direct the Defiance County Sheriff’s department to the aforementioned Facebook discussion.

2003 Letter to the Editor: Cat Killer

letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor of the Bryan Times. Published 2003. I thought posting this letter here might help readers understand how much my religious and political views had changed by the early 2000s. This particular letter was written after the county prosecutor declined to prosecute a cat killer.

Dear Editor,

A cat killer is loose in Williams County. He is known by our local authorities. He even boasts of his cat killing and the enjoyment it gives him. Why should this be a concern to anyone? After all, he is just killing cats, right?

The Humane Society spoke of prosecuting the man because cats are considered property, and by his actions he violated the property rights of the cat owner (s). Do they have any moral standing apart from their relation to their owner?

All animals are a part of God’s created order. They were endowed by their creator with life, and with that life given certain rights. Animals have a right to be respected as created beings within the context of the order of Creation. While it is debated whether or not animals should be eaten for food, there should be no debate concerning the care of, love for, and responsibility to animals. Factory farms, factory slaughter houses, trophy hunting, and abandoned, mistreated animals are all abhorrent testimonies to the depravity of man. The wicked man cares not for the life of his beast (Proverbs 12:10).

The man who killed these cats should be prosecuted. Prosecutors who hide behind their prosecutorial discretion should be reminded of voter discretion at the next election. We need government leaders who recognize that cruelty to animals is just as abhorrent as a crime against a human. If we do not prosecute when it involves the “least” of us, who is to say we will not turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to other immoral behaviors deemed more serious by the powers that be?

If this man can not be prosecuted, how about a sign in front of his house that says “Beware, cat killer lives here!”

Rev. Bruce Gerencser
Alvordton, Ohio

As I Remember it: Bryan, Ohio Part 1

gerencser family 1950s
My grandparents, Paul and Mary Gerencser and Children, 1950s.  My dad is on the front row, far left.  Only my two aunts, last row, far right, are still alive.

Bryan, Ohio is a small, rural community in the far northwest Ohio county of Williams. Bryan is the place of my birth, which occurred at Cameron Hospital (recently torn down) in June of 1957. My mother moved to the Bryan area in the 1950s. My father was a Williams County native. Dad’s parents, Paul and Mary Gerencser, were Hungarian immigrants who came to America in the 1920s. Arriving at Ellis Island, they made their way to Cleveland, and from there moved to Defiance County, Ohio. Grandpa and Grandma Gerencser later moved to Williams County Ohio after purchasing a 100-acre farm on the Williams/Defiance County line. (please see My Hungarian Grandparents: Paul and Mary Gerencser)

Bryan, the seat of Williams County, has, according to the 2010 census, a population of 8,545. The population in 1950 was 6,365. Racially, Bryan is 96% white. I was 7 years old before I had my first encounter with a black person – a porter at the train station in Chicago. There were no blacks living Bryan during my teenage years. Only a handful of blacks live in Bryan today.  Hispanics make up about 4% of the population.

great black swamp

Much of northwest Ohio was a part of a glacially fed wetland called The Great Black Swamp. According to Wikipedia, The Great Black Swamp:

…existed from the end of the Wisconsin glaciation until the late 19th century. Comprising extensive swamps and marshes, with some higher, drier ground interspersed, it occupied what was formerly the southwestern part of proglacial Lake Maumee, a holocene precursor to Lake Erie. The area was about 25 miles (40 km) wide (north to south) and 100 miles (160 km) long, covering an estimated 1,500 square miles (4,000 km2). Gradually drained and settled in the second half of the 19th century, it is now highly productive farm land. During the second half of the 20th century, efforts were undertaken to preserve and restore portions of the swamp to its pre-settlement state.

….

The land once covered by the swamp lies primarily within the Maumee River and Portage River watersheds in northwest Ohio and northeast Indiana. The boundary was determined primarily by ancient sandy beach ridges formed on the shores of Lakes Maumee and Whittlesey, after glacial retreat several thousand years ago. It stretched roughly from Fort Wayne, Indiana in the west, eastward to the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge near Port Clinton along the Lake Erie shore, and from (roughly) US 6 south to near Lima and Findlay. Near its southern edge at the southwestern corner of present-day Auglaize County, the swamp was so impervious to travel that wheeled transportation was impossible during most of the year, and local residents thought the rigors of travel to be unsuitable for anyone except adult men.

Although much of the area to the east, south, and north was settled in the early 19th century, the dense habitat and difficulty of travel through the swamp delayed its development by several decades. A corduroy road (from modern-day Fremont to Perrysburg) was constructed through the Maumee Road Lands in 1825 and paved with gravel in 1838, but travel in the wet season could still take days or even weeks. The impassibility of the swamp was an obstacle during the so-called Toledo War (1835–36); unable to get through the swamp, the Michigan and Ohio militias never came to battle. Settlement of the region was also inhibited by endemic malaria. The disease was a chronic problem for residents of the region until the area was drained and former mosquito-breeding grounds were dried up.

In the 1850s the states began an organized attempt to drain the swamp for agricultural use and ease of travel. Various projects were undertaken over a 40-year period. Local resident James B. Hill, living in Bowling Green, Ohio, in the mid-19th century, made the quick drainage of the Black Swamp possible with his invention of the Buckeye Traction Ditcher. Hill’s ditching machine laid drainage tiles at a record pace. The area was largely settled over the next three decades. The development of railroads and a local drainage tile industry are thought to have contributed greatly to drainage and settlement.

(Astoundingly, Wikipedia fails to mention the Indian (primarily the Ottawa Indian tribe)  population that inhabited parts of the Great Black Swamp in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.)

Bryan sits just north of what once was the Great Black Swamp. The land of northwest Ohio is flat. Jokingly, local residents say that road overpasses are our mountains. In Williams County, the roads are laid out in a grid: the east-west roads designated A,B,C and the  north-south roads 1,2,3. Most of the roads are a mile or so apart from one another, and it is impossible to get lost in Williams County unless one is drunk.

While Bryan is a rural community surrounded by fertile farmland, it is also an industrial community. Sadly, in recent decades, Bryan has watched its industrial base decline due to factory closings and job outsourcing.

Ohio Art, the maker of the Etch-a-Sketch, still calls Bryan home, but most of its products are now made outside of the United States. ARO, another home-grown major corporation once employing over a thousand people, closed its doors a few years ago. The same could be said for factories such as  Hayes-Albion and Challenge-Cook, both thriving manufacturing facilities until their demise in the 1980s and 1990s.

Northwest Ohio has been hit hard by factory closings and the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs. There was a time when a person could make a good living at many of the local factories, but those days are long gone. Wages are stagnant or in decline, and there is little prospect of any sort of economic improvement. While northwest Ohio counties now have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, wages remain depressed.

I worked for a number of Bryan businesses during my teen and young adult years. Places  such as:

  • Bryan Nursing Home (closed)
  • Everhart’s Restaurant (changed hands)
  • Bob’s Dairy Freeze (closed)
  • Myer’s Marathon (closed)
  • Foodland (closed)
  • Holabird Manufacturing (closed)
  • Bard Manufacturing (manufacturer of furnaces)
  • General Tire (changed hands)
  • ARO (closed, now owned by Ingersoll-Rand, but manufacturing is no longer done in Bryan)

I also baled hay during several summers, and one summer I participated in a youth work program for teenagers whose families were on welfare. My  job placement was at the local elementary school and the Bryan Sewer plant.

I have moved in and out of Bryan many times over the years:

  • Born in Bryan 1957
  • Lived in or near Bryan from 1957 to 1962 (moved to California)
  • Lived in or near Bryan from 1965 to 1966 (moved to Lima, Ohio)
  • Lived in or near Bryan from 1967 to 1969 (moved to Deshler, Ohio and then to Findlay, Ohio)
  • Lived in Bryan in 1973 (moved to Findlay, Ohio)
  • Lived in Bryan in 1974 (dropped out of high school and later moved to Arizona)
  • Lived in Bryan 1975-1976 (moved to Michigan to attend college, came home during the summer)
  • Lived in or near Bryan in 1979 ( oldest son was born in Bryan, moved to Newark, Ohio)
  • Lived near Bryan from 1995 to 2003 (moved to Michigan)
  • Lived near Bryan from 2003 to 2004 (moved to Arizona)
  • Lived in or near Bryan from 2005 to 2007 (moved to Ney, Ohio where we currently live)

Even now, I live five miles away from Bryan, just across the Defiance/Williams County line.

For many years, I had a love-hate relationship with Bryan and northwest Ohio. In my youth, I couldn’t wait to get away from boring, flat, Bryan, Ohio, yet, despite my resolve never to  return to northwest  Ohio again, here I am, living, once again, in northwest Ohio.

These days, I have made my peace with Bryan. My six children and ten grandchildren live within 20 minutes of here. This is their home, and wherever they are, that is where I want to be. The land may be flat and b-o-r-i-n-g,  but there is something about this place I call home, something familiar and secure.

Now that I have laid a bit of groundwork, in future posts I plan to write about my experiences growing up in Bryan.

Notes

The Great Black Swamp-1987 Ohio Historical Society article by Carolyn Platt

Ohio’s Great Black Swamp-Undated Ohio Inside Story article

History of the Great Black Swamp-2011 The Black Swamp Journal article

Encouraged by a Young Bernie Sanders Supporter

bernie sanders 2016
Bernie Sanders for President Sign in Our Front Yard

A short while ago, someone pulled into our driveway and got out of their vehicle. I was busy writing when our early visitor detection system, also known as Breigh, the cocker spaniel, went off, alerting me that someone was in our driveway. Sure enough, seconds later someone knocked on our door.

As I looked out the window I saw a bearded young man wearing a ball cap in his late twenties standing on the porch. His vehicle was an old truck. I carefully opened the door, not knowing if there was a confederate-flag-waving redeck or an atheist hater standing on my doorstep. Imagine my surprise when I greeted a man who wanted to know where I got my Bernie Sanders sign.

As of today, I think our home sports the only Bernie Sanders sign in Defiance or Williams County. This man wanted to know if Sanders had a local office. I told him no and said I ordered the sign at Sanders’s website.

He said he wanted to get a sign because he was a big Bernie Sanders supporter, as was his girlfriend who sitting in the truck. I laughed and said, now there are two of us, and he replied that he had a number of friends who were Sanders supporters. At this moment, my heart flooded with joy, so much so that I wanted to shout PRAISE JESUS! Okay, just kidding a bit.

bernie sanders cartoon

When I look at the Republican debate lineup I want to gag and throw my hands up in despair. The candidates, all 17 of them, are a reminder of everything that is wrong with the United States. The young man on my porch reminded me that all is not lost. While President Obama failed to bring the hope and change I hoped he would, I know we are better off today than we were under the reign of King Bush. A better future awaits us if we can drive a stake in the heart of amoral capitalism and corporate greed. (I am not anti-capitalist as much as I am against capitalism as it is now practiced in the United States.)

There’s a restlessness brewing among young adults. Whether it will result in dramatic political change remains to be seen. For today, I am encouraged. If Sanders cannot win the nomination, then I will support whomever the Democratic candidate is. I hope, in the process, that Sanders can materially affect the Democratic party and force it to abandon the teat and bed of corporate America.

102516

Local Christian Takes Courageous Stand for Jesus 

Snark ahead!

As you know, here in rural NW Ohio, religious persecution is quite severe.  Never mind that there is a Christian church on every street corner and the overwhelmingly majority of local residents profess faith in Jesus Christ. In the mind of God’s chosen ones, being forced to even think about two people of the same-sex being married in a ceremony performed by the notorious atheist Bruce Gerencser is enough for them to think they are being persecuted nigh unto death.

While their paranoid delusions have no basis in fact, I do think many Christian zealots have a persecution complex. Why, just the other day I drove though Pulaski, a spot along US HWY 127 noted for Bruce Gerencser having attended third grade there, and noticed the following:

believer lives here

This sign is akin to having a sign that says White Person Lives Here or Republican Lives Here.

Everyone in rural NW Ohio is a Christian. Yet, I am sure this bold as Daniel in the lion’s den Christian thinks that they are making a courageous statement of faith. They should expect persecution to befall them. In fact it already has. An atheist and his agnostic wife drove by this believer’s house and snickered. Such persecution has not been seen since the days the Romans slaughtered Christians in the Coliseum. How will this believer survive the withering persecution of a snickering atheist and his wife?

Stay tuned for updated reports.

Note:

Now, if I put a sign up in my yard that says, God is a Fiction, an Atheist Lives Here, I doubt the sign would survive the night. I know of only three or four out of the closet atheists in this area. I am sure there are more, but most local atheists stay in the closet lest they face social condemnation and economic harm.

 

Bruce Gerencser