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History and Achievements

“Every vital organization owes its birth and life to an exciting and daring idea.” - James B. Conant

Photo by: Eric McFarland, Instagram @codger.cam

History and Achievements

“Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator.” – Robert Orben

Photo: Montenegro Cable Car

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Our History

In 1918, Ethel McCarty returned to Cleveland from a trip to Washington, D.C. While there, she had joined a Baltimore-based hiking club and was impressed by the number of people who enjoyed walking with the group. Some months after her return, she wrote her friend Edna Wooley, a columnist for the Cleveland News, to suggest a similar club for Cleveland.

On March 17, 1919, Edna’s column ran a notice about a meeting to be held just for this purpose. Nearly 200 people gathered in the Euclid Arcade to talk about the organization at this March 23 assembly. Most of those present took a streetcar uptown for a hike out Riverside Drive afterward. A second meeting and hike took place a week later. On April 20, the Cleveland Hiking Club was formally organized.

Early members of the Club entertained thoughts of a campsite or clubhouse. After much research, the Club bought a 10-acre site in Hinckley in 1933. Much early work on the site was done by members and, with the cabins and grounds taking shape, the Club looked to name the property. Camp Onwego was christened on October 16, 1939. Club members still gather there to enjoy its beautiful wooded surroundings at meetings, social gatherings and hikes.

No matter where members gather, the focus is the same: hiking. In 1919, after the first surge of membership, several members encouraged the Club to award mileage credit to help maintain interest. Beginning in January 1920, mileage was recorded for all members. Several members have recorded more than 50,000 actual miles with the Club, with one recording nearly 62,000 miles.

It’s easier to accumulate miles now than it was in the Club’s early years. In 1920, fewer than 20 hikes were scheduled in a month. Now the Club may schedule more than 300 hikes in a month, with the majority being roughly 5 miles in length. Special long hikes appeared early on, with the first 26-mile hike in 1922 and the first 40-miler hike in 1925. Other special annual hikes include the Frozen Waterfall Hike, The 16 Ridges, The President’s Hike and food, bird, brew and bluebell hikes.

Membership has grown and dipped over the years. Holding fairly steady through 1970, it reached 200 in 1971, 500 in 1990 and 1,000 in 2009, and is over 1,200 today.  The club was inducted into the Western Reserve Historical Society's 100 Year Club in December 2019.

Edna and Ethel would be pleased to see how that first newspaper article fostered one of the oldest and largest hiking clubs in the country.

Members Recognized with the Club’s Lifetime Achievement Award

The Cleveland Hiking Club honors living and deceased members who have provided long-term service to the club through leadership roles, committee membership, major project support, long-term support to key club events, and/or mileage attainment plateaus. Starting in 2016, the Board has recognized these members for their lifetime of achievements and contributions.  The year in parenthesis indicates the year the member was recognized.

Jay Beswick (May 2016)
Member: 1951 - 1988
Lifetime Mileage: 23,454; 40 mile hikes = 20;
Leadership Positions Held: President (1958-1959, 1963), Vice-President (1952), Chief Pathfinder (1954-1955, 1980-1981) and Recording Pathfinder (1969-1970)

A member from 1951-1988, Jay Beswick brought his thoroughness and unassuming nature to bear on numerous leadership roles in the CHC and also worked at the main library as head of the literature department. Jay was one of the club’s most proficient leaders. He was also a superb naturalist. In addition to volunteering in the Botany Department of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, he also was the first volunteer naturalist for Cleveland Metroparks. His authority on local flora was renowned, particularly Ohio ferns, on which he authored a book. Heading the club’s Brecksville Trails Committee, he saw its mapping and blazing project through to successful completion. Jay rebounded from heart surgery in the 1960s to accumulate more mileage than anyone before. The club declared July 3, 1983, as “Jay Beswick Sunday” at Camp Onwego to honor him for his many contributions and to recognize him as the first member to reach the 20,000-mile pinnacle. (Indeed, he was the first to reach all milestones from 10,000 to 23,000 miles.) How appropriate that a man who so enjoyed hiking and nature would pass from this life amidst trail companions and golden leaves on a walk from camp one glorious October morning.

Emily Gregor (May 2016)
Member: 1942 -2001
Lifetime Mileage: 14,478 miles; 40 mile hikes = 5
Leadership Positions Held: President (1973-1974), Vice President (1963-1965, 1971-1972, 1975), Pathfinder (1947), Secretary (1944-1946) and Board Director (1999-2001)

An enthusiasm for learning enabled young German-speaking Emily Schell to rise through school and graduate from Hiram College before becoming Head Dietitian at Charity and Deaconess Hospitals. Born and raised on Cleveland’s west side, Emily’s excitement for nature and people led her to hiking trails and socializing with trail mates. One, Stan Gregor, would become her spouse. She became interested in hiking in Philadelphia where she joined the Batona Hiking Club while doing her dietetic internship. She joined the CHC upon returning to Cleveland in 1942. Stan had been a member since 1937 and the two married in 1949. Emily served the first woman pathfinder in 1947, the same year Stan was president. Her talent for leadership and organization, and her gifts of volunteering, benefited not only the CHC but hiking clubs all over the country. She served as vice president of the American Hiking Society and president of the Buckeye Trail Association, and remained active in numerous trail organizations. She received many resulting honors, especially for her work with the Buckeye Trail.

Wilma Howard (December 2016)
Member: 1953-2013
Lifetime Mileage: 31,096; 40 mile hikes = 40
Leadership Positions Held: Board Director, Recording Secretary (1969-1979) and Corresponding Secretary (1962-1964, 1988-1992)

Wilma Jatzek did her first 40 in 1953, the year she joined the club. She also enjoyed square dancing, which is how she met Don Howard, who she married in 1957. The two were active, lifelong members. Wilma served the club in many capacities. Besides holding office, she was chair of Communication and Membership and served on the audit, pathfinder, publicity, social and nominating committees. She helped with the directory, wrote Newsteps columns and edited the newsletter, started can recycling and worked at camp, where Saturdays often found her mowing grass. She will likely always be remembered as the first – and so far only – woman to hike 40 40-mile hikes. Wilma also hiked the Buckeye Trail with group B, led canoe trips and hikes, and hosted potlucks. Her and Don’s parents were club members, and sons Brian and Ken have been active as well (Ken hiked his 40th 40 in 2018, not quite literally following in his mother’s footsteps.)

Walter Lennartz (May 2016)
Member: 1951/1980 - 2010
Lifetime Mileage: 40,241 miles; 40 mile hikes = 14
Leadership Positions Held: Vice President (1955-1956), Chief Pathfinder (1952-1953), Recording Pathfinder (1984-91) and Board Director (2001-2002)

You never knew what surprises Walter Lennartz would bring when he led hikes through a Cleveland neighborhood, but you always could depend on anecdotes, history, insights and humor. He was even open to stopping along the way for a chat if he came across someone with information about the environs. These were his signature hikes, and he loved sharing what he knew. Comments on a Tremont like might include, “That’s Lemko Hall. It was the setting for the wedding reception in The Deer Hunter.”  Later: “That’s Union Gospel Press building. The woman who worked there...”  Walter worked for Ford Motor Company for 37 years, witnessing the ups and downs of Cleveland’s industrial and commercial fortune. Thus, he was a repository of information about area companies.  As a quality analyst, he visited vendors across Ohio, further enriching his knowledge and anecdotes on the region. His number-crunching background also translated well to his role as the Club’s Recording Pathfinder where he calculated and compiled mileage statistics by hand for several years. He also wrote clever columns for Newsteps.

Bob Maruna (December 2016)
Member: 1986 to present
Lifetime Mileage: 33,388; 40 mile hikes = 10
Leadership Positions Held: Vice President (2002-2004), Chief Pathfinder (1995-1997) and Board Director (2000-2001, 2005-2008)

Bob Maruna has served the club in numerous roles, and is an accomplished and knowledgeable leader. Besides being Chief Pathfinder, he was on the Pathfinder Committee for more than a decade, and also led the Camp Committee, building trails and bridges and maintaining the cabin and its property. He has assisted with holiday parties and performed in skits, stuffed envelopes for the corresponding secretary, and collected cans and delivered them to recyclers. A graduate of Ohio University, Bob served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and was a physical education teacher before retiring. Bob is especially known for hikes he led in Bedford. His rare, unique knowledge of the area is complemented by his work with the Bedford Historical Society and his many years as a resident. Bob has maintained parts of the Buckeye Trail and, with wife Joyce, often has held hot dog roasts after hikes.

Joe Mayer (May 2016)
Member: 1941-1999
Lifetime Mileage: 15,157; 40 mile hikes = 40;
Leadership Positions Held: President (1968-1969), Vice President (1958-1959, 1966-67), Chief Pathfinder (1949-1950) and Trustee (1972-1974)

Joe Mayer joined the CHC in 1941 because he wanted exercise. He got that and more. After serving in the Army from 1942-45, Joe became camp chair, a post he held for over nine years. His committee could be found at camp every summer weekend, keeping it in shape or relaxing there after hikes. Joe racked up many miles through the 1950s and 60s. He was the first person to log 9,000 miles with the club. Despite moving to Florida with wife Justine in 1970, Joe continued to visit Ohio every May for the 40-mile hike. He completed his 40th 40-miler in 1985. He referred to the club as “the best company I know of.”

Louise McDonough (May 2016)
Member: 1969-2000
Lifetime Mileage: 51,926; 40 mile hikes =32
Leadership Positions Held: Corresponding Secretary (1970-1980); Vice President (1989-1994) and Board Director (1995-1998)

Louise’s parents passed away at an early age, so she raised her younger siblings and steered them on the right path. In 1969, she joined the CHC and the club was never the same. Her wit and playful sarcasm enabled her to say things to people no one else could. Not only did she get by with such comments, she often made new friends. If a new couple showed up on a hike, the grey-haired Louise would walk up to the man and say “Hi sweetie”. She would then look at the accompanying wife or girlfriend and say, “And who is this?” Her appetite and metabolism were amazing. She could out eat just about anybody and never gain a pound. Her generosity also saw no limit; if a hiker was injured, she’d stay behind and/or go with them to the hospital. She led can recycling after Don and Wilma Howard and brought it to new heights, eventually chairing the Outreach Committee. She was the first member to reach 50,000 miles but, after completing her 32nd 40-mile hike in May 2000, she died in July.

Bob McLaughlin (April 2019)
Member: 1987 to present
Lifetime Mileage: 10,129 – active as of 2020; frequent 40-mile hiker
Leadership Positions Held: Chief Pathfinder (1992) and Board Director (1995-1996)

Active in planning hikes, Bob McLaughlin was a member of the Pathfinder Committee for years after serving as Chief Pathfinder. He also coordinated long hikes, started “15 and lunch” hikes, and laid out the route for several 40-milers. Bob was Camp Chair and served on that committee from 1997 to 2004. As Chair, he oversaw installation of the storage shed, the current outhouses, the pump house and the site’s first outdoor grill; built trails and bridges; maintained the property and more. He helped on Social and Holiday Party committees, hosting and performing in skits. Bob led excursions and supported can collecting and recycling, among other activities. Bob and his wife Fran also coordinated biking activities. An outdoors enthusiast who worked at Ohio Bell, Bob was also a catch-and-release fisherman who enjoyed skeet/trap shooting.