Published on 12/04/05 in the Fostoria
Gray steps down as president of Fostoria Area Historical Society
By LEONARD SKONECKI Focus Correspondent
A long chapter came to a close for the Fostoria Area Historical
Society at its September meeting. George Gray, the group’s
longtime president, stepped down from that position. “I
think it’s time for a younger person to take this on now,”
said George, who is 87. “I’ve always loved local history
and it’s been wonderful to have been involved with the society
and the museum all these years.”
George comes by his love of local history in part because his
family has been so important to Fostoria’s development.
“My grandfather brought the Gray Printing Co. over from
Medina in 1888 after they had a fire over there. I’ve always
liked history. I majored in American history at Oberlin College.”
When he graduated college, George thought his career was on its
way, but there was a slight detour.
“After I got out of college, of course, war was declared
in 1941. I got in the National Guard in the fall of 1940, thinking
I was getting in on the ground floor. “I went down to Camp
Shelby, Miss., with the National Guard and then was inducted into
the Army. I was a battery clerk.
“It was then I got acquainted with Ida Mary and we got married
two years later, during the war.” The Historical Society
was a shared passion for the Grays. Ida Mary was the FAHS treasurer
for many, many years.
The Fostoria Area Historical Society was established in the early
1970s. George was only starting to get involved at that time.
“We had the ‘76 celebration downstairs. Mary Fish
was the president,” he said. “I got involved a little
bit then, but I was still president of Gray Printing Co. full-time.
” It was in 1978 or 1979 that George began to devote more
of his time to the historical society. George has some favorite
exhibits at the museum.
“Our Allen Motor Car has a crank starter. We had that in
a parade once a long time ago,” he said. “It ran pretty
The museum’s Allen car was built in Fostoria in 1918.
George also enjoys the music room where there are many photographs
and instruments from the Jack Wainwright era.
“I particularly liked the parts connected with music since
I’ve been in music all my life. I started on the piano,
then the mandolin and then the bassoon,” he said.
“I got a scholarship to Oberlin College as a result of my
bassoon ability,” he said. “I had a scholarship offer
from the University of Kentucky, but Oberlin was closer and that
was where my parents and grandparents went to school.”
Jack Wainwright did much to introduce the teaching of instrumental
music in the schools across the nation.
“I knew Jack Wainwright very well,” said George. “He
was a very good friend of my father. He was the one who got the
national high school band championship in Chicago in 1923.
“We have photographs of that band. Jimmy Guernsey and Ernie
Duffield were in the band too. That’s the reason music is
interesting to me. We also had the national band convention here
once and we have a picture of that, too,” he said.
“We had three boys and each one was involved in music,”
The bassoon might seem like an odd choice for an instrument.
“I started in the French horn but my lips couldn’t
take it. So I dropped that. When E.E. Smith came here in 1932
or ‘33, we got out a bassoon.
“I thought it was a crazy looking instrument to try, but
it ended up being the one I played. After I played it through
high school, I bought a bassoon and took it to Oberlin College
and played in the band and symphony orchestra there.
“The bassoon took a back seat when I became a father,”
he said. “It laid up in the dormer for a while until the
community band got started under Dick Downs. I tried to play it
again, but my lips and lungs weren’t what they used to be
once I got to be age 65 or 75. But I still have the bassoon.”
The Charles Foster Room contains many photographs and artifacts
related to the Foster family. “We have a lot of the Foster
furniture. I have a lot of memories of that, too,” George
said. “We had most of that in storage in Toledo until we
found out this building (the old municipal building on North Street)
was going to be available,” he said. “We cleared out
all the Civil Defense equipment and the Police Department still
had the jail on the first floor full of stolen goods, bicycles,
televisions so on. We didn’t get that cleared up for a few
“Then a few years ago, we got a generous donation from Don
Miller to turn the jail into the Judy Miller Room for meetings,”
he said. “That was a wonderful gesture on his part.”
George wasn’t always the society’s president. Mary
Fish was president when George got involved. Lawrence Henry also
served as president.
Mary Fish was the driving force behind the formation of the Historical
Society which was established in 1972 with 15 members.
George has always realized the importance of instilling an appreciation
of history in young people. Each year he takes the fourth grade
classes of the Fostoria Community Schools through the museum for
a personally guided tour.
“I started doing that around 10 years ago. I enjoy the young
people,” he said. “Some of them have quite a few questions
While George is stepping down from his duties as president of
the Historical Society, he will still be active in the organization.
And he remains active in other ways. He attends meetings of the
Fostoria Rail Preservation Society, sings in the First Presbyterian
Choir and the local Barbershoppers, is active in the Shepherd
Center and organizes the annual Salvation Army kettle drive.
“Fostoria’s history has meant a lot to me over the
years,” George said. “I hope that more people will
get involved in the Historical Society.”
Skonecki named group’s new leader
The board of the Fostoria Area Historical Society accepted the
resignation of George Gray, its longtime president, at the group’s
September meeting and elected Leonard Skonecki to replace him.
Leonard was born in Fostoria and graduated from St. Wendelin in
He lived in Toledo from 1968 to 1979 and then in Dayton until
1995 when he returned to Fostoria.
“I have very much enjoyed the Historical Society and the
museum, but I’m happy to see someone take it over. Leonard
is a wonderful fellow,” George said.
“Filling George’s shoes will be a big job,”
said Leonard. “I appreciate the board’s confidence.”
One of Leonard’s goals it to try get more younger people
involved in the Historical Society.
He said the most pressing need right now is for a treasurer. Anyone
wishing to take on that job can call 419-435-3588