John Grigsby

Farewell article in 1989 (though as a freelancer he had many good years left in him).

In my previous post about Sylvania, I mentioned Blade reporter John Grigsby briefly. He had a 53-year career at the paper, and what I couldn’t track down about him was whether he was still living. Sadly, I found out today that he died yesterday, Thursday, Jan. 13 at the age of 96. Here’s his obituary in The Blade.

John Robinson Block, current publisher of The Blade, put it this way: “If there was a Pulitzer Prize for an all-around great reporter, it would have went to John Grigsby,” said Mr. Block. “Most of his work was done in an era before the vanity byline, but he was one of the very best reporters The Blade ever had.”

In researching articles or just browsing, Grigsby’s name comes up frequently. Frequently throughout the post-war era, a byline for a story The Blade was not a given, but seeing Grigsby’s name was not an uncommon occurrence.  While researching some of the stories he did, I came across the citation that his personal papers had been donated to the University of Toledo’s Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections. The description is here, and it’s a treasure trove of stories he did (headlines only) as well as a general overview of what he covered:

  • Where does Ten Mile Creek end and the Ottawa River begin? (unfortunately, since the issue of March 4, 1956 is missing, we’re not going to find out today)
  • Upton Avenue started out as a cow path (“For some years after the Civil War, Ed Upton had huge herds of cows that wore quite a trail going to and from pasture land in the area between Dorr and West Bancroft streets” Feb. 5, 1992, page 19.
  • The 50th anniversary of The Blade’s Peach Section (launched on Feb. 3, 1936), Feb. 3, 1986, page 18. The Peach paper came from the days when the Blade and the News-Bee competed with late editions: The Blade’s were on peach-colored paper and the News-Bee were on pink-colored paper.

Grigsby himself said it best in this article about his retirement from The Blade (which he was asked to write) on July 7, 1989:

I’ve done just about everything in my 53-year career at The Blade.

The most sensational experiences have involved wading in waist-deep flood waters in Grand Rapids, Reno Beach, Oregon, Point Place and Bolles Harbor; driving through zero-visibility fog en route to the air tragedy at Toledo Express Airport, going through tornado-wrecked areas along the Ohio-Michigan line and also near Temperance and Erie, Mich.; traveling to Little Falls, N.Y. for a major train wreck; dodging flames shooting out of Maumee Chemical Co. after a massive explosion rocked the city, and numerous incidents involving disasters, murders, fires, riots and other crime activities. …

I was entranced by the odor of newsprint and ink and by the scurrying activity as everyone fought to meet deadlines. I was hooked. I knew then that I wanted to be a newspaper reporter.

Doing what you want to do for 50-plus years? You can’t ask for much more than that in a life. As I said previously, I will probably be referring to a number of his stories in the future, because if anybody chronicled the history of 20th century Toledo, it was John Grigsby.

7 Comments

  1. John from Perrysburg

    The Maumee Chemical Company explosion and fire in 1962 was one of my first memories. My mother worked just down the street at Save Electric, across the street from O’Rourke Buick (P.J. O’Rourke’s family).

  2. Billie Rohl

    It’s an Appalachian thing!

    My father, Ira “Slim” Rohl, was an afternoon shift foreman, and one of those injured because they had come in early, ironically enough, for a safety meeting. His best friend Carl (Greisenger?) was killed in the explosion. I was in kindergarten that year. That explosion because a metaphor for what happened to our family life after that–he survived (barely) but complications from his injuries and his reactions to them drove an irreparable breach into my parents’ marriage (not that my mother was entirely blameless, I’m just saying) and caused him many health and relationship issues for the rest of his life. He eventually passed away at the relatively young age of 68 due to lung cancer, non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma and brain cancer–due, his oncologists believed, to chemicals and asbestos he inhaled and was exposed to during his work at Maumee Chemical, and, of course, what flew into the air during the explosions and their aftermaths.

    I remember vividly crying that day and telling him not to go to work, please don’t go today daddy–and hanging on to his pant leg, and he somewhat exasperatedly asked me what was wrong with me, he had to go to work, and asked Mom to help him out. When he left, I looked out the window, still crying, then–of all things–crawled under the end table by the sofa and cried and cried. Mom was at her wits’ end, and all I could say is that I didn’t want him to go, something bad was going to happen.

    Within half an hour, the plant exploded. I remember watching the names of the injured, and what hospitals they’d been taken to (when known), roll up our B&W tv screen like movie credits….

    • I remember that day very well….my uncle Arlo Pedigo was killed in that explosion, I also remember waiting and watching the names of the dead roll on the tv screen…He was my dads brother and thats how we found out for sure he was one of the dead. My father was supposed to start work there a week earlier, but had to give a 10 day notice to his current employer. That day sure changed alot of lives

  3. Toledo History Box

    Oh my goodness. Now that’s a story.

    I plan on doing a post on the Maumee Chemical explosion in the not-too-distant-future (It happened before I was born, so actually I had never even heard of this event until I started doing this site!).

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