A lasting legacy

After years of hard work, the John Marynowitz Gymnasium opened in Robery S. Hayes Memorial Park and a ceremony honoring those who made sacrifices for their community.

Cornerstone of the community: Officers, officials, Bustleton Bengals members and neighbors attended a grand opening ceremony of the John Marynowitz Gymnasium, located in Robert S. Hayes Memorial Park. Marynowitz’s son, Joseph (pictured), spoke during the event. LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

Saturday’s years-in-the-making grand opening of the John Marynowitz Gymnasium celebrated the generations of future youth who would benefit from the gym, but centrally focused on honoring those who made sacrifices for the surrounding Bustleton community.

Located in Robert S. Hayes Memorial Park, the gym will forever reunite Hayes and Marynowitz, who were shot in the line of duty on June 17, 1993. Hayes lost his life and Marynowitz suffered a shot to the head that permanently disabled him. The brand new gymnasium filled with officers, elected officials, Bustleton Bengals members and more to celebrate the opening.

“I just want to thank everyone that came out today,” Marynowitz, the namesake of the new blue and orange gymnasium, said at the ceremony. Just as he had back at the gymnasium’s groundbreaking last May, he delivered a prayer thanking the Bustleton Bengals and everyone who helped make the gym a reality, as well as those who have given their lives in the line of duty.

“Sacred heart of Jesus, please pray for every police officer, firefighter and soldier that has given his life in the line of duty,” he said.

He also thanked his wife Mindy, son Joe and brother Brian for taking care of him. His family received a standing ovation from the crowd and gathered elected officials after Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. gave them praise.

“[The gymnasium] demonstrates to [the youth] that we never forget, we always remember our heroes, they’re always here for us,” Ross said. “John, we are deeply indebted to you and all you have done. Please know you will always be a hero to us, always.”

Marynowitz and Hayes started at the police academy together in 1985. They were investigating a car on Limekiln Pike in 1993 when the fatal incident occurred.

But the ceremony did not only focus on those who lost their lives in the line of duty. The presence of former Bengals president Kevin Hughes was felt strongly throughout the ceremony, as the man who largely spearheaded the creation of the gym was missed.

Hughes, who served as president of the Bengals from 2011 and coached there since the 1990s, passed away last September after a short battle with lung cancer. During his presidency, which was the longest in recent Bengals memory, he faced endless obstacles and delays for the creation of the gym. He was able to attend the groundbreaking ceremony in May, something his wife Theresa told the Times was one of the major things he wanted in his life.

“My children say they only saw their father cry twice during his life,” Theresa said at the ceremony. “Both of them were happy times. Both of them were at Bustleton.”

They were when he was inducted into the Bustleton hall of fame in 2013, and the second was last year’s groundbreaking.

“Of course, our kids were teasing him, and he said it was his allergies,” Theresa said to laughs from the crowd. “I think today his allergies would be kicking in again.”

Theresa was joined by her and Kevin’s kids, Kevin Jr., Nick and Jackie, as they were presented with a portrait of the new gymnasium that featured the sun rising behind it. Theresa said she felt Kevin’s presence in the portrait.

The Bengals years ago were tasked with raising 10 percent of the necessary funds to build the gym, which at the time was an estimated $165,000. City Councilman Brian O’Neill’s office said it would fund the rest. The figure only grew as time went on and obstacles continually appeared.

“We had a major hurdle to get over with fundraising,” said Vince Tarducci, gym director who led the ceremony. “What got us over the top, some anonymous donor gave us $17,000, that got us up to our 10 percent. Who the anonymous donor was, he still hasn’t told us.”

Tarducci and the Bengals then presented O’Neill with a plaque commemorating his dedication to the gym.

“That 10 percent requirement wasn’t a requirement of the law, it was a requirement of me,” he said. “The Bengals are going to run this gym, they’re going to maintain it, they’re going to do all the work to keep it looking like it does, and they’re going to save the city millions and millions of dollars in personnel. They’ll do it as volunteers. They are one of the reasons I’m so lucky today.”

O’Neill sat next to Mayor Kenney, state Reps. Martina White and Kevin Boyle, state Sen. John Sabatina and Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, all of whom also spoke at the ceremony.

“When children in the community see this facility, their parents will talk of their bravery and dedication to the greater good, and their legacy will endure,” White said. ••