John Kornowa                      Inducted 1991 - Class of 1947

It is the kid brother syndrome. Watching your family excel somewhere and anticipating the day when it is your turn. This was "little Johnny’s" dream.

Nineteen members of the Kornowa family have carried on the Woodward tradition. John's older brothers Andrew, Paul and Dave played Woodward basketball. They were very skeptical that their little brother would follow in their footsteps. When the trio left home to serve in World War II, they said goodbye to an awkward 12-year-old adolescent who was uncoordinated. "Little Johnny" wanted to emulate his brothers' athletic accomplishments and make a name for himself at WHS.

His humble beginnings started with a neighborhood friend, Paul Miller. They nailed a coffee can to Paul's kitchen door. The improvised gym floor lasted until Mrs. Miller came home and called a permanent time-out on the game.

When John finally made his way to WHS, he played two years on the varsity basketball team and made the second team All-State Tournament during his junior year. As a senior he led his team to the city and district tournament championships. As Toledo's most honored and publicized high school basketball player his senior year, John was the city's scoring leader. He also made first team All-City, first team AII-District and first team All-State by the International News Service. All this from a 5'9" guard! This diminutive player was popularly recognized throughout Ohio as one of the best set-shot artists.

After graduating in 1947, he was awarded a full basketball scholarship to the University of Toledo. He played varsity ball for three years.

When the Korean War broke out, he was stationed with the 40th AAA Command Brigade in Yokahama, Japan. John played basketball and baseball in Special Services. In fact, he was selected to the Far East All-Star first team for basketball. Although he was far from home, he continued to strut his stuff often leading his team in both total and average points during the season and in conference play. Upon returning home, John became a Toledo firefighter. After 30 years of service, he retired as a lieutenant. He is a member of the Ohio and Toledo Firefighters Retirees.

When John picked up his firehose, he did not put down the basketball. He played for the Toledo Mercury professional basketball team and several federation teams. One of John's highlights is being on the YMCA national championship team. As an amateur, he held the Ohio AAU game scoring record of 47 points. For 15 years, John officiated Northwestern Ohio High School and small college basketball. He has also coached many successful elementary basketball and baseball teams.

Nowadays, John's athletic endeavors are limited to the golf course. As a member of Tamaron Country Club, he won the President's Cup last year. He cites his hobbies as golf, golf and more golf. John said he does not have a problem indulging in his activity. Dottie, his wife of 40 years, joins him on the green. "She's out on the links as much as I am," he said.

John and Dottie have one son, John. He teaches and coaches at Start High School.

When he is not on the golf course, John is involved in the UT Varsity T Club, American Legion and Defiance College Purple and Gold Club. The 1947 graduate also helps organize his class reunions with fellow Hall of Famers, Jim Wilusz and Jack Kennedy. These two classmates and teammates are still John's good friends. He was a member of the "Booth Street Terrors" which comprised of Paul and Dick Miller, Angie Cuttaia and the Pasqunelly twins--Dick and Eddie.

John has fond memories of his high school coaches Homer Hanham and Wilson Weis. They taught "little Johnny" to behave as a first class gentleman.

The team, however, did not always act at the height of decorum. John explains, "In our senior year, we beat Findlay in a Christmas Holiday Tournament on a last-second shot. While in the locker room after the game, the Findlay coach convinced the timer that the shot was too late. When we heard, we all immediately ran up to the gym to protest. Lo and behold, Eddie Lair showed up to complain wearing only his jock strap."

Seriously, John thinks that just being able to attend WHS was an honor. "My six older sisters and brothers had gone there and had all achieved recognition both academically and athletically. WHS played an important role in the Kornowa household," John said.

The Kornowa family can be proud of "little Johnny." Although he is short in stature, he is head and shoulders above the rest in achievement.

©2020 Woodward Alumni Hall of Fame

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