Augustus "Gus" Benjamin Inducted 2014 - Loyal Volunteer
Gus was born to a sharecropper family in Kennesaw, Georgia, in 1922. Gus along with his mother, brother and five sisters, moved to Spring Street in Toledo in the late 1920s. When Gus started school, Special Education was not what it is today, and according to Gus's sister, "he never received any grades at Sherman, just occupied a chair."
Gus never talked about why he chose to support Woodward High School. Gus lived with his sister, Louise, and she said, "If I remember rightly, it had something to do with the death of an older brother that attended Woodward in the '30s. James Boyd, who graduated in 1934, remembered a ten-year-old Gus Franklin who would hang around football practice, but even the early accounts of Gus had his last name incorrect. A former City Recreation Commissioner, the late Jack Kennedy, a Woodward basketball player in the'40s, recalled "that Gus was at all the basketball practices and games."
Gus would be waiting on the steps when teacher Dan Duvendack would unlock the loading dock doors and turn off the burglar alarm about 6 am. After turning on the stairwell lights, Gus would greet cafeteria worker Mary Tubbs around 6:30. Teachers would find Gus at his usual post at the cafeteria doors and, throughout the day, Gus could be found walking the halls urging the students to be in class on time.
The late Don "Ducky" Lewis, a former Woodward football coach, said that, "After school, Gus would check the practice fields for glass, chase after the balls that rolled into the street, and pass out towels, as the players came back into the building after practice."
Woodward sports were his passion and, wherever the Woodward teams played, Gus would show up with his "lifetime pass" given to him by Toledo Public Schools ‘Superintendent, E. L. Bowsher. Later, Gus would ride with the team on the bus from Woodward or arrive on the band busses.
Anna Bolden, Woodward's Dean of Girls, recalled, in 1977, that even though the coaches had given Gus a coach's varsity jacket, Gus was wearing his trademark hat and thread-bare top coat as he urged voters to vote for the school levy outside the Wilson Park Shelter House.
In 1980, as the school year was starting, after serving Woodward faithfully for over 40 years, Gus was accidentally killed in a traffic accident at Stickney and Ketcham.
A TRIBUTE TO GUS
December 5, 1947 Woodward TATTLER
Hooray for Gus
"Hooray for Gus, Hooray for Gus..." The words of that familiar song rang out from the throats of Woodward's footballers as they pay their tribute to their favorite and most ardent fan, GUS.
As those words echoed again and again, that Thursday night, GUS sat there with tears in his eyes, his face full of happiness, telling everyone the world was good and it was wonderful to be alive.
For here were his boys, the boys that he had seen going down to defeat too many times, battle their way to Victory for Woodward, for Elmer and for Doc, for the students, and for GUS.
His crowning moment came on the trip home when Woodward's warriors had started their song and Elmer had patted him on the back. His joy knew no bounds.
Players will come, and players will go, but GUS will still be there cheering his boys on to victory. And once again the song "hooray for GUS..." will be sung and he'll get patted on the back and his memory will take him back to the first time that happened and maybe, we'll be city champs then.