Also featuring photos from our monthly supplement...

Editor’s note: Two teens saved a man from drowning in Lake Charlevoix two weeks ago, one of them was Margeaux Leakas, 16, of Dayton, Ohio and Lacey Flanagan, 17, of St. Louis, Mo. Following is the article reprinted from the July 9 issue of the Charlevoix Courier.

Teens save drowning man

Lacey Flanagan & Margeaux Leakas

When they saw a dinghy circling around in the middle of the lake with no one in the driver’s seat, they knew there was something wrong.

When Margeaux Leakas, 16, of Dayton, Ohio, and her friend Lacey Flanagan, 17, of St. Louis, Mo. decided to meet their friend and go for a ride in Flanagan’s jet ski, they saw something that didn’t look right.

“People were just standing on their docks, pointing to the water. All those people had bigger boats or yachts, so they couldn’t really do anything,” said Flanigan “I mean, by the time they would have gotten themselves untied and started up, it would have been too late. So, we just booked it over there.”

What the people on the dock saw was a drowning man. “we could see a man in a bright blue shirt from where we were, and he was just throwing his arms around everywhere,” said Leakas.

The man in distress, Robert Leitz, 62, of Sister Bay, Wisc., was not wearing a life-jacket.

“I figured it wasn’t going to be a long trip, and I could see my friend’s boat from where I was,” he said. “I was going to visit a friend of mien on the other side of the lake, so I kind of had my guard down.”

According to Leitz, he was only about 100 yards off of the municipal dock when he took the throttle of the boat and throttled up.

“All of the sudden the boat jumped out from under me,” he said.

Leitz, who claims to be a pretty good swimmer, and has been involved with boating for over 30 years, said he just made a stupid mistake.

“My first instinct was to try to catch up to the dinghy because at the time it was just idling away from me,” he said. “The water was so cold though and I was losing strength as I was trying to catch up to it.”

Leitz said someone told him the water was 52 degrees when he fell in. Anything less than 70 degrees can induce hypothermia.

“I was in the water for four or five minutes. If those girls hadn’t gotten to me in time, I think I would have lost consciousness,” said Leitz.

Leitz’s only hope was the two girls on the jet-ski who were still out of reach at that point.

As he was fighting to keep his head above the water, the dinghy was coming back at him.

“I knew there was nothing I could do, so I lifted my arm up to try and knock the boat out of the way,” Leitz said. “The next thing I knew, I was looking at the bottom of the dinghy.”

The propellor of the dinghy sliced his ear and a part of his shoulder, leaving him in need of approximately seven stitches in his ear.

When the girls got to the scene, they saw Leitz bleeding and flailing around in the water.

One of the girls threw him her life-jacket but Leitz didn’t respond to it. So, Leakas decided to jump in the water and save him herself.

Flanigan was not only steering the jet-ski, but she was tied to it as well, so this left Leakas to saving the man’s life.

The 135 pound Leakas was somehow able to swim the 250 to 300 pound Leitz to safety by getting him to a nearby boat that was on it’s way.

“There was a family on that boat, and the father kind of helped me lift him up onto their boat,” Leakas said. “From there, the family covered the man’s face with a towel because that’s where the bleeding was coming from; then they headed toward the Ward’s to get the man to a hospital.”

After Leakas got back on the jet-ski, the girls located the out of control dinghy. Fanigan jumped on the small boat, which had run into a moored sailboat, and hit the killswitch.

Later in the day, the girls met the man they saved, and his wife, at the hospital.

“Both he and his wife gave us a great big hug and they just kept saying ‘thank you, thank you, thank you.’ They were incredibly grateful towards us,” Flanigan said. “It’s so weird: Last summer, I rode the jet-ski around and used it for fun all season long; This year, I used it to save somebody’s life.”

“I had never taken any life-saving classes before,” she said. “The water was freezing, and I don’t even know how I was able to do it. I can hardly remember how I swam with him.”

Leakas added, “He was moving around everywhere and I think I just put my arm around his chest or over his shoulder to get him over to that family’s boat.”

Ann Denison, Leakas’ grandmother, was the first to receive the girl following her heroic action.

“She just came home to me and didn’t say anything. She was shaking,” Denison said. “When I asked her what was wrong, she said, ‘I just saved a man’s life.’ You could tell she was in shock.”

She added, “I told her, ‘you should feel lucky, not everyone gets the chance to save somebody’s life."

“They really are very amazing girls,” Denison said. “They did the right thing and I’m very proud of them.”

A.J. Hoffman can be reached by e-mail at

Essays from the
Oakwood Historical Society

The Oakwood library – 1913 to present


The house on Park Avenue (now the Little Exchange) that served as Oakwood's
library from 1924 to 1939.

Sketch of the Wright Memorial Library today (Artist David L. Smith)

Oakwood’s Wright Memorial Library has been a symbol of the community’s interest in and dedication to knowledge and education since its inception in 1913. A library was established by the efforts of the Oakwood Efficiency League in 1913 when it acquired 100 books through donation and set up shop at “Briar Hill,” the home of the Parrotts on Oakwood Avenue. Although no longer there, the location is proudly proclaimed on the stone posts at 1300. N. C.R. met the challenge with another 100 books whose titles were listed in The Oakwood Record.

The school board, which was undertaking a bond issue for the new school, promised a permanent home. In 1916, it created a library with seven members on the board and began buying books with school funds. The library was open only a few hours a week and was staffed by teachers until it hired its first librarian, Gretchen Smalley, in 1919. It closed briefly in 1922 for lack of funds because of the new high school being planned, but in 1923 a new library board, headed by John R. Fletcher, was appointed.

Fletcher, who owned a large lot extending from Dixon Avenue to Park Avenue, donated a small house for the library in 1924. The house was turned around and moved to face Park Avenue. This was the first real Oakwood Library building, setting out with 1,550 books, with Aimee Clunet and Jane McMaster as librarians. The little wooden house, not designed for such use, quickly became inadequate, so that by 1937, despite the Depression, the Library Board with the blessing of the school board, voted to place a $40,000 bond issue on the ballot. Using a gift from Orville Wright to promote the campaign, it was successful, and our Wright Memorial Library was born.

The name was suggested by the Garden Club in honor of the Wright family, Orville, Wilbur and Katherine, whose pictures are in the right hand reading room. A bronze plaque inside the entrance honors John O. Fletcher who died in 1925. The fact that he had restricted his gift for library purposes for 25 years was dodged by leasing it to Mrs. Mead for the Little Exchange which she was establishing.

Designed by Schenck & Williams in the Tudor tradition favored by them and built on land owned by the city and leased to the library for 99 years (renewable at $1.00 per year), the new library was dedicated in February, 1939. The land, originally part of the John Shroyer quarter section, had been owned by Emma Conover who had inherited it from Henry Long in 1898. In 1925 she had sold it to Wm. F. Cappel, who sold it to the city in 1928. Nell Gunter and Jane McMaster served as librarians until the move to the new building when Catherine Hadler took the reins, followed by Eva Leach in 1952.

In 1964, freed of the restrictions of Fletchers’ gift, the library board sold Park Ave. and used the proceeds to add a new wing. remodel and add air conditioning. Thelma Yakura began her tenure as librarian in 1965 and oversaw the 1972 addition, which was financed by the Montgomery County Intangibles Tax. The floor space was doubled to 13,800 sq. ft., providing a children’s room and public stack area, space for 8,000 more books, a meeting room, book processing department, and a staff lounge.

In 1982, the overflowing stacks and deterioration of the building forced a decision to make major improvements. Further monies were sought from Montgomery County, and with the guidance of Lecklider & Jay Architects, an addition with remodeling was undertaken to enlarge the building by 9.850 sq. ft. to a total of 23,650 sq. ft. This provided a new lower entrance, relocation of the service desk and offices, the addition of the children’s room and audio-visual room, as well as the large community room. In 1989, Yakura, the longest serving librarian retired and was replaced by Toni Walder. She was killed in a tragic traffic accident in 2003 and was succeeded by Ann Snively, a long term employee.

Despite the valuable services and attractive building, the citizens of Oakwood rejected a 1.98 mil levy in for the library in 2005. This is relatively unheard of in Oakwood. It had lived off the state Intangible Tax until 1987 which was paid to the counties and split up among the libraries. The change in the law was to a percentage of the personal income tax which is supposed to be 5.7 percent, but the state has frozen that amount since 2004 at the 2003 level, so that libraries don’t get that percentage. The 2005 defeat cost a projected $539,000 per year for each of the following five years. This shortfall has meant some material changes in the programs, hours of operation, purchases and personnel.

Peoples’ needs and desires in library services change and Wright Library is always looking to meet them. Use of the Web-site is increasing, as is the use of computers and wireless connection for on-line services. Children’s summer programs are offered to 600 young people. The library participates in a state wide “Every Child Ready to Read” initiative to develop reading skills. After school programs provide for school age children of two working parents.

Over the years there have been some remarkable citizens who have contributed to the success of the Wright Library. Only space prevents me from repeating stories of Orville Wright’s participation on the board. Newspaperman Max Kohnop served as president of the board from 1934 to 1976 and continued on the board until 1981. Thelma Yakura who served as librarian for 24 years, kept files about local history on which we still rely

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July 22, 2008
Volume 17, No. 30

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