In the East Liverpool area, when people think of the YMCA, one of the first names that comes to mind is Carl “Pop” Werner.
Born Jan. 23, 1906, in the little village of Carmi, Illinois, a young Carl Werner’s home was the only one on his street not under water when the great floods of 1913 hit that area. To attend school, he had to be picked up by boat and taken to a central location from which he could walk to the little school in Riverside, just outside the city limits.
Pop’s mother died of influenza on Christmas Eve in 1917 when he was not quite 12 years old. With no one to look after him, it was decided he would be placed in the Baptist Orphans’ home, but on the day he was to be transported there, a friend of the family decided to take him in for one year, after which he was to find employment in Quincy, Ill. He arrived in Quincy on June 3 and two days later landed a job driving a horse-drawn delivery wagon nine hours a day for $6 a week.
He later enrolled in the Gem City Business College, taking a bookkeeping and stenographic course. After completion, he passed on an offer to join some friends traveling to California, and instead decided to return to high school, also taking a part-time job at the Quincy YMCA. After his high school graduation he enrolled in Northwestern University and secured a job with a private school, where he served as “house father” to a group of blind boys. He also became the boys swimming and gym teacher. While still a student at the university, he attended summer school and worked in the therapy department of the hospital at Elgin, Ill.
In 1939, his job with the YMCA in Quincy led him to the East Liverpool YMCA, where he would serve as general secretary under the leadership of Earl Carlton. He immediately took an active role in increasing the activities of the local Y, eventually replacing Carlton, and establishing clubs directed to the collecting of stamps and coins as well as the developing of Hi-Y Club. In addition, he taught swimming, physical fitness and gymnastics, where he excelled.
During his leadership of the Hi-Y Club, he created the most coveted honor presented to an East Liverpool football senior in the form of the Bill Booth Award. Pop first presented the trophy in 1938 to Tom Taylor. The qualifications he established for this award: ability, sportsmanship, character and leadership are still used to this day.
In 1945, under his direction, the Hi-Y Memorial Trophy was first presented. Other popular programs developed under his watch were the annual marbles tournaments and the Casey Jones Toy Train Derby.
In the summertime, “Pop,” assisted by his wife, Irma, was the pillar of Pine Ridge Camp, where weeklong sessions were held for area youth including both boys and girls. Sessions were held at the camp, located on the Beaver Creek between Lisbon and East Liverpool, where lifetime memories were created. The echoes of the camp’s fabled theme song, “Pine Ridge Will Shine Tonight,” still resonate in the hearts and minds of veteran campers.
“Pop” Werner was also an active member of the East Liverpool Rotary Club and for many years served as executive director of the East Liverpool “Community Fund,” the predecessor of “United Way.”
“Pop” died on Sept. 2, 1970. He and his wife were survived by a daughter, Carol Ann, who currently lives in Parma Heights, Ohio.Somewhere along the way, in and among all the activities in which he created a bond between young and old alike, Carl Werner ceased to be called Mr. Werner and became instead, “Pop” – a moniker so fitting a man who gave so much of his energy, time, concern and love to others.