The new face of heroism and patriotism; Stephanie LaRae Morris

November 27, 2013 in Lifestyles, News


Journal Staff Writer

November 26, 2012 was the day Stephanie LaRae Morris was deployed to combat in Afghanistan; seven months after joining the United States Army.

Trained as a petroleum supply specialist, she would drive trucks to deliver gasoline to other armored vehicles during her deployment, in the war torn country. With the line of work Ms. Morris was involved in, it was both dangerous and life threatening that was synonymous, maiming and killing American soldiers.

Bombs remotely denoted by the enemy, the road side devices would inflict loss of limbs and death, against American GI’s. Aware of thehigh risks that came with her job, she still carried out her orders and duties without hesitation.

Seven months after her deployment, her base came under motor attack.

For security purposes, Ms. Morris said that she couldn’t go into detail. But after the heavy bombardment, she suffered a left femur and right foot fracture.

Five months later, on November 15th, the 24 year old Toledo native and Libbey High School graduate received a hero’s welcome back home in Toledo from family, friends, the Lebanese and Arab communities, as well as area government officials and, members from the general community.

The event entitled, “Honoring Our Hero,” was held at the Sultan Club, located at 8959 Door St., and was organized by family friend Dorine Mosley and members of the Sultan Club, headed by Nabil Shaheen, president.

Some of the extensive program presentations consisted of the Posting of the Colors by the University of Toledo’s ROTC, words of gratitude form the Toledo Arabic American Community, the President of the Toledo Buffalo Soldiers, Mayor-Elect D. Michael Collins, the presenting of the Key to the City by current Mayor, Mike Bell and much more.

“We wanted to give her a hero’s welcome at home,” said Mrs. Mosley.

“She’s our hero who has earned numerous medals and honors while in the military, including the Purple Heart, and she deserves to be acknowledged as such.”

“This is a good cause,” Mr. Shaheen said. “I’ve been in the United States for over 30 years and I can’t remember a time when an Arab American group has done anything similar to this event.”

Mr. Shaheen went on to say, “We, Lebanese and Arab Americans, live in this country. Our children go to school in this country and we’re a part of this country. And Stephanie is our hero. We love and support her.”

Although everyone was joyful and happy about Ms. Morris’ return, there was a time when somberness was more of the mood, particularly from

Relda Bates, Ms. Morris’ mom.

She recalls when her daughter first said she wanted to join the military. “I didn’t want her to go,” Mrs. Bates told the Toledo Journal. “But once Stephanie decides a thing, it’s hard to make her change her mind.”

Mrs. Bates said that her family was a military family, including Ms. Morris’ brother, Marcus Matlock, who she wanted to follow.

Mr. Matlock had honorably served eight years in the Army and did two tours in Iraq. He said he tried to encourage his sister to join the Air force, in order to avoid combat but Ms. Morris had decided on the Army.

Mrs. Bates said while her daughter was in Afghanistan, she would hear from her regularly which helped ease her worries. Then, on a day she was supposed to hear from her daughter, she didn’t receive that call.

Mrs. Bates became a little uneasy but still hoped for the best.

When she got off work later that night, her family informed her that Stephanie’s base had been attacked. “I instantly lost it,” Mrs. Bates said. “Then the next day, I received a call from the Causality Unit; I really freaked out. But fortunately, they were calling to let me know Stephanie would be alright.”

“Today and this entire weekend is a lot to take in,” Ms. Morris said.

“I’m not really a big crowd type of person, but I really appreciate everything done for me.”

“I understand why people say I’m a hero. But this job is what I signed up for, and I don’t see myself as a hero,” she said.

Another honor bestowed on our war hero was being the Grand Marshal in the 2013 Holiday Parade, held the next day in downtown Toledo. I’ll admit, I’m kind of nervous about the parade,” Ms. Morris said.

As she sat on the back seat of a convertible car that slowly made its way through the streets of downtown, Ms. Morris was greeted over and over again with applause and people yelling, “Thank you.”

Once she heals, Ms. Morris said she plans on returning back to active duty. “People have asked me why I want to go back, especially since I’ve already experienced so much. I simply say, I like what I do, and I want to keep doing it.”


[caption id="attachment_99988123" align="alignnone" width="670"] 9607 Private First Class, Stephanie Morris of the United States Army, as the Grand Marshal at the Holiday Parade.[/caption]


Libbey alumni share memories and good times at all class reunion

September 13, 2013 in Lifestyle, Lifestyles, Local News, News, Top Stories

Journal Staff Writer
[caption id="attachment_99988051" align="alignnone" width="670"] Alumni of Libbey High School gathered at Maumee Bay State Park to begin and end the weekend long reunion. Alumni from various classes captured the weekend in one last group photo.[/caption]

Not too long ago, at the corner of Hawley and Western, stood one of the city’s most recognizable buildings.
The empty lots there now was once home to students full of spirit. The place was Libbey High School and although the building is gone, the spirit remains.
This past weekend, Aug. 30-Sept. 1, the school’s tradition and pride was in full effect at the Libbey High School All Class Reunion.
The weekend reunited classes from all eras once again to remember what many called “the good ol’ days”.  The theme was “A Reunion to Remember.”
Alumni from the 1960s-mid-70s came out to celebrate Libbey’s legacy but all classes were invited.
The three day event began on Friday with alumni gathering for the Meet and Greet at Maumee Bay State Park. Guests mingled and caught up with each other at the event. Many had not seen each other in years.
The next day the reunion shifted venues and held its Dinner and Dance Night at Cambridge Hall, 1821 W. Alexis.The theme was “An Evening Out with Classmates.”  Guests enjoyed food, live entertainment and dancing , celebrating deep into the night.
The reunion concluded Sunday as the reunion moved back to Maumee Bay State Park for its Blue and Gold Beach Party and Picnic. Here guests enjoyed more good, card games and the beach. Even with rain looming, alumni and their families enjoyed themselves while expressing joy about the weekend they had.
Committee members said the weekend goes a long way in keeping the Libbey family together and the memory of their beloved school fresh in the city’s heart.
“We wanted to welcome everybody back, even those who may not have graduated, and share the experience and love we had at Libbey,” said Cassandra Day-Moore, committee chairperson.
Started in 2006, the weekend also serves a deeper purpose.  All donations and proceeds go back into the Libbey community as they are used to help alumni and families who may find themselves in tough times.
“We are one big family helping family,” Day-Moore added.
The committee thanked the city and all those who came out to support the event and looks forward to continuing the success of the Labor Day Weekend festivities.


Excitement of softball lives in the central city

September 1, 2013 in Lifestyle, Lifestyles, Local News, Local Sports, News, Sports, Top Stories

Ninety-Nine Problems with Swagg defeats Platinum Boss Ladies

Journal Staff Writer

A lot was at stake Saturday, Aug. 24, for two women’s softball teams. The game, held at Robinson Park on Forest Avenue, would decide if 99 Problems with Swagg or Platinum Boss Ladies would advance to the championship game held the following week.
In the beginning, the game gradually advanced. By the second time 99 Problems with Swagg went to bat, the pace quickly changed.
Batters began hitting balls deep into the outfield. Many of those hits were singles or doubles that weren’t fielded by the opposing team; in which case 99 Problems capitalized off those mistakes.
“Oh my God, what are you guys doing?” was just one of the questions yelled by the coach of Platinum Boss Ladies, to his players. “You guys are making simple mistakes.”
From those mistakes, 99 Problems scored over and over again. Even on the defensive side, 99 Problems with Swag showed their dominance.
The Platinum Boss Ladies started out with a lot of enthusiasm but it quickly soured to the point where players didn’t make efforts to try and catch balls or simply didn’t run to scoop up singles that could’ve easily turned into an out.
The end result was a 25 to seven loss for the Platinum Boss Ladies and a trip to the championship game for the 15 and1 women of 99 Problems with Swagg
Temika Shears, head coach for 99 Problems with Swagg, said they did a lot of practice going into the game. Bat control and being able to hit the ball in the area of their opponent’s weaker players, were just two of the techniques they worked on.
“We stayed focused on hitting the ball. If we can’t hit, we can’t win,” Shears said.
Although they had a sizable lead, 99 Problems with Swagg, utilized their comfortable lead to test players at different positions, instead of using their time for mere play. For example, if a player normally played in the outfield, she experimented with playing second base.
Ina Sidney plays left field for 99 Problems with Swag. The veteran has played since 1984.
Sidney spoke about the ability of being able to spot the difference between a veteran batter and someone new to the game.
“Someone that’s new to the game is obviously nervous and they do a lot of moving around in the box,” she said. “Also, they can only hit to one side of the field. A more seasoned player can hit the ball anywhere. He or she doesn’t lay the bat on their shoulder and they’re not doing a lot of moving in the box.”
That type of insight is what Sidney said allows them to adjust their defense accordingly.
Ninety-nine Problems with Swag will play High Maintenance in the championship game at Robinson Park at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 1.

Members of the 99 Problems with Swagg softball team.  One of the ball players, foreground, presents the back of her jersey. The jerseys display the breast cancer survivor ribbon and names of players’ mothers; one a survivor and the other who recently passed.

Temika Shears, head coach for 99 Problems with Swagg, said they targeted the weaker players on the team.

Although Ina Sidney jumps high for the ball, Tiffany Garrett of Platinum Boss Ladies, was still able to score one of five points for her team.

Woodward Polar Bears have cool class reunion

August 14, 2013 in Education, Lifestyle, Lifestyles, Local News, News, Top Stories

Journal Staff Writer

Woodward High School Polar Bears members escaped the heat last weekend when they got together for their first all-class reunion for those who graduated during the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
Old friends who hadn’t seen each other in years embraced and shared memories Aug. 2 and 3 behind the Infinity Lounge on Jackman near Laskey.
Yvonne Harper, class of 1967 and committee member, said she told her friend Sheila Daniels about the idea of having an all-class reunion.
“I think it’s going to be wonderful because so many of us have left the city and hadn’t had a reason to return,” Harper said. “So this reunion will bring old friends back together again.”
Reunion activities included a meet and greet, a family picnic, a tug of war between the classes, a trivia question game for each class, plaques for the people with the most grandchildren and who traveled the greatest distance and activities for youngsters.
At the close of the event, hosts Daniels and Wayne Wallace, and deceased Woodward grads were honored.
“I was so excited when I heard about the reunion,” said Marilyn Davis, class of 1976, who drove from Florence, Ky., to attend the event.
“I made sure to take time off my job and when I heard there would be kid’s activities, I decided to bring my grandchildren,” she said.
Robert Wright, class of 1979, said the first thing he thought of when he heard about the reunion was, “I’m definitely going.”
The good thing about having an all-class reunion was he had friends who either graduated before or after him that he knew he would see.
“If you’re going to have a reunion, this is the best way to go,” Wright said.
Daniels said the all-class reunion will take place every two years.
If anyone is interested in developing the next one, email Daniels at

James Bays reflects on work and family at retirement party

April 29, 2013 in Lifestyle, Lifestyles, Local News, News

Journal Staff Writer

[caption id="attachment_99987869" align="alignnone" width="670"] From left: Daughters, Ida Lynne Williamson and Tonya Collins, James Bays, wife, Stephanie Bays, daughter, Stephanie Bays and son, James Bays III.[/caption]

After 54 years of work in the labor force, 31 of those with Johnson Controls, James Bays retired April 19. On James Bays reflects on work and family at retirement party
April 20, family, friends and former co-workers joined him at the Hilton Garden Inn in Perrysburg to celebrate his retirement.
There, the honoree and those in attendance viewed a slide show of Bays when he first entered the work force as a McDonald’s employee; spending more than 18 years with the fast food giant.
Also, fond memories and words of affection would be shared about the man of the hour.
Perhaps, more excited than Bays about his retirement, was his high school sweetheart and wife of 47 years, Stephanie Bays.
“As a friendly reminder, I will be pulling the plug on the alarm clock and taking the phone off the hook on Sunday night,” she jokingly informed his co-workers while speaking about her husband.
Stephanie Bays told The Toledo Journal, “We’ve waited a long time to enjoy these years together. Every job he had he always worked 12 to 14 hours a day. The past five years, he worked seven days a week. So this is going to be like a second honeymoon.”
One-by-one, James Bays’ children approached the podium and shared their memories of their dad.
“Daddy, I thank you for providing for us and supporting us at our track meets,” said his daughter, Tonya Collins.
“Thank you dad for your hard work and putting food on the table and a roof over our heads. I love you for it,” expressed his son, James Bays III.
His daughter Stephanie Bays wrote an emotional felt poem entitled “I celebrate you,” which moved her to tears while reading it.
James Bays’ oldest daughter, Ida Lynne Williamson, could hardly express her appreciation and love for her dad without crying.
“While at work, he really set a good example for many of the employees on work ethics,” stated Kevin Williamson, supervisor at Johnson Controls, as well as son-in-law to James Bays.
“It feels wonderful to finally retire after so many years,” James Bays expressed. “Although I initially said I didn’t want a party, I’m thankful and appreciative that my family did give me one.”
Besides spending more time with his wife and 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, Bays divulged that he’s looking forward to spending more time collecting toys.
“But my next stop in retirement is a cruise with my wife,” he shared.
“My husband has set the standard very high in regards to providing for his family. You would be hard pressed to find another man like him,” asserted his wife, Stephanie Bays.

[caption id="attachment_99987867" align="alignnone" width="670"] James Bays, standing center, with his former co-workers at Johnson Controls.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_99987868" align="alignnone" width="670"] James and Stephanie Bays pose in front of a table with some of the toys he collects as a hobby.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_99987866" align="alignnone" width="670"] James Bays III thanked his father for providing food on the table and a roof over their head.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_99987870" align="alignnone" width="670"] Stephanie Bays, wife of James Bays, told his co-workers that, “I will be pulling the plug on the alarm clock and taking the phone off the hook on Sunday night.”[/caption] [caption id="attachment_99987871" align="alignnone" width="670"] Ida Lynne Williamson shared with the audience that she was her dad’s favorite child.[/caption]