The Woodward Alumni Hall of Fame Association
Michael P. Bell Inducted 1992 - Class of 1973
Who would have thought that when Michael was charging down Woodward’s football field twenty years ago, he'd later be running into burning buildings for a living, not to mention being named Chief of Toledo's Fire Division?
Michael was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, and moved to Toledo at the age of five. He attended Spring School before entering Woodward in 1969.
During his four years at Woodward, Michael was involved in various activities. He was a member of the Spanish Club and Aequatatis and played the tuba for four years in Woodward's Marching Band.
His earliest experience as a city employee came during Michael's senior year when he participated in Government Youth Day activities. He "served" as Toledo’s Personnel Director shadowing former City Personnel Director, Angelo Tokles.
The Chief is best remembered at Woodward for his involvement in football and wrestling. He was captain of the WHS grappling team his senior year, a varsity letterman for two years, and was able to place second in the city in wrestling at the 175-pound category.
On the football field, Michael was an honorable mention selectee to the1972 All-City Football Team. Upon graduation in 1973, he was awarded the Michigan Plaque for outstanding athletic, scholastic, and school dedication.
Michael was so dedicated to the Polar Bears, he couldn’t pinpoint just one favorite memory. "They were all good. We had a blast all the time," he said. He did reminisce about great times with friends, Bill Stewart, Neal Abernathy, Fred Lisk, Jay Kelley, and Raymond McGowan. And Michael praised his favorite teachers- - -Miss Johnson, Mr. Heider, and the late Mr. Bounds.
Talk of Woodward football generated memories of some disappointing losses. Michael said Woodward's clash with the Scott Bulldogs in the fight for the 1971 Shoe Bowl and a DeVilbiss defeat in 1972 for Shoe Bowl contention brought back regrets. Another bitter-sweet memory that's forever recorded on the pages of the 1973 SAGA is the Woodward-Central showdown. Although a "Crunch Central" sign waved from Woodward's press box, it didn't give the team much luck. Woodward's arch rivals walloped the Polar Bears, 41-8. Woodward's only score came in the last quarter when Bill Stewart passed four yards to Michael and he ran it in for a touchdown.
At the end of his high school career, Michael was awarded a four-year scholarship to play football at the University of Toledo. He graduated in 1978with a Bachelor of Education degree. As a Rocket, Michael captained the team his senior year, played in the 1977 Ohio Shrine Bowl, made the All Mid-American Conference Scholastic team, and was selected as Student of the Year in his educational field.
During basketball season, Michael and seven other football players volunteered as UT's first male cheerleading squad. "Now," Michael said, "The cheerleaders are on scholarships, but we did it for fun."
On the advice of his father, Norman, Michael became interested in firefighting. While Michael was in college, Norman worked for the city. Upon Michael’s UT graduation, his father urged him to take the entrance exam for the Toledo Fire Department. "It was to appease him," Michael said.
What an appeasement! After a three-month-plus training period, he was appointed to the City of Toledo, Division of Fire, in 1980.
Before he became chief, Michael paid his dues as a Water Rescue Diver, Recruiter, Paramedic, Paramedic Shift Supervisor, Training Officer on the State and National levels, and served as a lieutenant and a captain.
He's currently 36 years old and an eligible bachelor. He is a member of the True Vine Baptist Church and is involved in a number of charitable boards including Easter Seals of Northwestern Ohio, The Liver Foundation, Frederick Douglass Community Center, Salvation Army, Boy Scouts of America, Red Cross, and the American Heart Association.
Michael is an avid sports fan, favoring participation over sitting on the sidelines. In fact, he said fire fighting is one of the best careers for a former athlete. "It's terribly exciting. You still get the adrenalin rush and you've done something to help someone else."
On this note, Michael relayed one of his favorite stories from his firefighting days. He answered a call on a lady experiencing chest pains and in full cardiac arrest. Once she was stabilized and on her way to the hospital, she said she owed Michael a sweet potato pie for saving her life. A few months later, Michael responded to the woman's house again, transported her to the hospital, and reminded her about the pie. "I still have gotten it," Michael said.
(The committee considered giving Michael a life-time supply of sweet potato pie in honor of tonight's induction but decided its usual award was amore lasting reminder...even though it isn't as delicious!)