Request to rename street after Medal of Honor recipient sparks closer look at policy

A veteran and former police officer advocating that Middletown’s only Medal of Honor winner be recognized by naming a park or street named after him continues his efforts as the city considers its policy on such efforts.

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Last month, David Shortt and Deb Morrison went to the city Park Board with the request to rename Flemming Park after Pfc. Patrick L. Kessler. However, the future of that park is uncertain and it was suggested that a section of Reinartz Boulevard between Clark and Charles streets be renamed for Kessler. The Park Board, which is an advisory body, forwarded the recommendation to City Council for action.

After Shortt made his presentation to council during the Citizens Comments portion of the Nov. 6 meeting, City Manager Doug Adkins recommended that council develop a policy and establish criteria on when and how to rename city parks, streets and other property to ensure consistency.

“This is not a dead issue in any way,” Adkins said. “We will follow up, but it may be a little while.”

Shortt said he is willing to give city officials a reasonable amount of time but is hoping for something more definite.

“They need to move forward in a timely manner,” said Shortt, who served 23 years in the Army and Army Reserve and retired from the Middletown Division of Police in 2012. “Doing the right thing should be automatic.”

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Kessler was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on Jan. 4, 1945 “action involving actual conflict with the enemy” and distinguished himself “by gallantly and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty” during the Battle of Anzio in Italy on May 23, 1944 during World War II. The 22-year-old was killed in action two days later on May 25, 1944. He is buried in the World War II section at Woodside Cemetery.

Kessler is one of 10 Butler Countians who have received the nation’s highest honor.

The Ohio National Guard Armory on South Main Street is named after Kessler, but Shortt said that is not a public facility and is on the outskirts of the city.

Shortt said if the city can name streets or parks after athletes, politicians and Civil Rights leaders, they should do the same for a Medal of Honor winner. Shortt said the recognition will help provide a role model and inspiration to local youths.

The last time a street was renamed in Middletown was in 2007 when a portion of South Verity Parkway was designated Todd Bell Memorial Way in April 2007, which was advocated by the late councilman Jim Armbruster and Bishop Rudolph Pringle, according to the Journal-News archives.

That effort to rename Minnesota Street started in the fall of 2006 and took several months before council approved it. That request was withdrawn in favor of a section of South Verity Parkway, a more visible street and a major city gateway when it was approved by council.

An all-state and all-American athlete at Middletown High School in football and track, Bell also broke the state long jump record that had been held by the legendary Jesse Owens.

Bell was an All-American football player for The Ohio State University and also played for the NFL’s Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles and was named an All-Pro.

Bell was a prominent community activist and an advocate for youth activities and education. At the time of his death in 2005, as the coordinator for the Minority Continuing Education Program at OSU.

The city has also named the basketball court at Sunset Park after Middletown basketball star Jerry Lucas who played on championship teams for the Middletown Middies, Ohio State, the gold medal winning 1960 U.S. Olympic Team and in the NBA with the New York Knicks.

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