Hudson -- When Memorial Stadium was built a few years ago the intention was to honor sacrifices made by men and women in the trenches, deserts and jungles of military service.
Now a group wants to combine the military service of a former Hudson man, along with his prowess on the gridiron both in the city that still bears a field with his name, and in the national arena, as a member of the Cleveland Browns.
Hudson City Schools Foundation is about 3/4 of a way to its $25,000 goal to raise enough funds to construct a memorial wall to Dante Lavelli, a former Hudson High School standout athlete, all-star player with the Cleveland Browns and National Football League Hall of Famer. Mr. Lavelli, who died in 2009, was a four-year starter on the Hudson High School football and basketball teams, playing quarterback on the gridiron and forward in basketball. Mr. Lavelli was also a baseball player and was drafted by the Detroit Tigers.
While at Hudson, the football team led by Lavelli enjoyed three undefeated years and won three County championships.
After graduating from Hudson High School in 1941, Mr. Lavelli attended Ohio State University on a football scholarship where he played on a national championship team, and worked closely with Paul Brown, before being drafted in 1943 into the Army, where he fought during the Battle of the Bulge. He then returned home and joined the Cleveland Browns as a defensive end and receiver.
During his 11-year career, Mr. Lavelli helped the Browns win seven championships, earned the name "Gluefingers, " from Paul Brown for never dropping a pass thrown to him and was inducted into Canton's Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975.
"It really is something that is near and dear to my heart," Ed Sogan, president of the schools foundation, said. "I think about these guys. My dad was part of that group. That's a generation that is dying at an unbelievable rate. They are in their late 80s and 90s and I think it's important to recognize the sacrifice they made."
Each year, until his death, Mr. Lavelli would return to Hudson for a football game, Sogan said. One of the district playing fields was named "Lavelli Field" in honor of his accomplishments on and off the field. In 2013, Mr. Lavelli was in the inaugural class of inductees into the Hudson High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.
Last fall, Magnum Energy Solutions of Hudson sponsored a golf tournament which brought in "a sizeable amount of money," according to Sogan.
The wall not "be huge" but a nice tribute to Mr. Lavelli, Sogan said.
The foundation has been working with Hudson's KGK Gardening and Design on the plans, Sogan said. The wall will be big enough for three pictures of Mr. Lavelli, Sogan said. And while the design is in the final stages, pictures will include Mr. Lavelli's induction into the Hall of Fame and another of him stretching to catch a football. Plans also call for two wings to jut from the wall, with benches so people can sit and enjoy the view, Sogan said.
"This guy was the real deal," Sogan said. "He was a fantastic receiver in a day and age where they didn't throw the football a heck of a lot."
Sogan hopes the wall, which will be built just outside the main entrance to Memorial Stadium, will be completed by the first home football game.
"We wanted to continue Dante's legacy," Sogan said. "He is like a hometown hero, serving in World War II, being at Ohio State during a national championship year in 1942, begin an all-star athlete in football, basketball and baseball and with the Browns and in the [National Football League] Hall of Fame."
Sogan also went a step farther than just "hometown hero."
"It is a tribute to a true American hero, let alone a Hudson hero," Sogan said. "We are proud that this was his hometown and that he maintained a relationship with Hudson and Northeast Ohio his whole life."
To donate to the wall send checks to Hudson City Schools Foundation, P.O. Box 473, Hudson, OH, 44236.
"We just didn't want people to forget the contribution he made, not only to Hudson, but to the Browns and to our nation in regards to his service," Sogan said.