YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – In a manner entirely befitting the dignified, understated and unassuming way he led his life, Percy Montgomery Squire passed away in his sleep in the early morning of Wednesday, May 24, 2017.
That Percy would leave the world quietly and without fuss was characteristic of a man known for his modesty and willingness to put others first. In his 95 years on earth, Percy both exemplified and transcended the values of his Depression Era upbringing. He modeled the perseverance, prudence, and sacrifice so common in Americans of that time, but also the kindness, sensitivity, and tolerance valued by later generations. He was a man both of and ahead of his time.
Born November 1, 1921, in Richmond, Virginia to John P. Squire and Florence E. Squire, nee Parker, Percy spent his earliest years near the tiny hamlet of Garysburg, North Carolina. Two years later, the Squire family departed the South to join, John, who had travelled to Buffalo, New York and later, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for employment in the steel industry. Upon learning of the opening of new steel plants in the area, John moved to Youngstown and relocated his family to the booming steel town Percy would call home for the rest of his life.
The early years of that life were spent on the family’s west side homestead, where Percy was reared under the watchful eye of his parents and where he played with his younger brother John and sister Ethel. Time would soon carry young Percy onto Stambaugh Elementary School, Carroll County Middle School in Malvern, Ohio and later to Chaney High School, where he lettered in football, baseball and basketball, starring at right halfback on the gridiron and at guard on the hardwood.
Although he rarely called attention to his exploits on the sporting field, Percy’s athletic prowess was recognized throughout the Mahoning Valley and eventually earned him national attention. In 1943, the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues, a baseball team that employed some of the sport’s greatest players, invited him to join the team – an exceedingly rare honor. Yet, Percy turned down the offer, opting instead to settle down with his love Ruth Gatewood Squire, whom he married that year. The two then started a family on Youngstown’s East Side that would grow to include his children, Florence, Cheryl, and Percy.
The elder Percy would continue working at the Carnegie-Illinois plant where, immediately after receiving his diploma from Chaney High, he exchanged his graduation cap for a hardhat. Percy rose to become a stovetender, working the blast furnace for nearly 40 years and surrendering his job only when the company pulled stakes from Youngstown in 1981. U.S. Steel offered him a transfer to its Cleveland facility. Percy refused, opting instead to remain in the Mahoning Valley where he had devoted himself to family, work and civic life.
Percy was a regular face at Price Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church; a stalwart member of McGuffey Center; a volunteer with Hospice; saxophonist with the VFW Marching Band; a member of Youngstown’s Northeast Homeowners’ Association and the East High Boosters’ Association; a beloved volunteer for the Boy Scouts, Troop 18. In 2005, Percy was inducted into the Ebony Lifeline Sports Hall of Fame for his athletic accomplishments.
Whether he was starring in the Cisco Playground or Double-A softball leagues, claiming the championship of the West Federal Street YMCA Industrial League, taking the field for The Whale Inn, or representing Local 1330 in the Tri-State Softball League, Percy’s quickness, feel for the game, fast bat and sure hands allowed him to excel at shortstop in a way that would inspire wonder decades after he hung up his glove. The shortstop position serves as the anchor of the infield, involves constant coordination with the other players, and requires the sacrifice of offensive glory for the essential work of keeping the defensive machinery running smoothly. That’s an apt metaphor for Percy’s life and the selfless way in which he labored in the background so his family could thrive and his friends could occupy the spotlight.
Percy’s accomplishments on the fields and in the mills of the Mahoning Valley reflect the outstanding character traits he demonstrated as a family man and a pillar of the Youngstown community — care, hard work, loyalty and consistency. Those are the same attributes required of a man whose childhood was set against the backdrop of the Great Depression and an era of institutionalized discrimination. Yet, in the face of these challenges which embittered many men, Percy expressed a seemingly boundless optimism and faith. His gentle manner belied an inner strength, firm principles and a profound sense of purpose that were the hallmarks of an exemplary life and the source of admiration and love from all who knew him.
Percy was preceded in death by his parents, John P. Squire and Florence E. Squire, nee Parker.
He is survived by his loving wife of 73 years, Ruth M. Squire, whom he adored and was his constant companion and with whom he had three children, Florence S. Coleman of Beavercreek, Ohio, Cheryl E. Flint of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (deceased) and Percy Squire (Carole). The couple has four grandchildren, Joy L. Eisner (Rob), of Chicago, Illinois, Troy M. Flint (Lindsay) of Sacramento, California, Reva M. Squire and Deidra R. Squire, both of Silver Spring, Maryland. They also have three great-grandchildren, Lukas C. Eisner, Ophelia Flint and a yet-to-be-named baby Eisner. Percy also leaves his sister, Ethel P. McMullen of Youngstown; a brother, John T. Squire (deceased) and a host of nieces and nephews.
Calling hours will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 31, 2017, at Price Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church located at 920 Dryden Avenue, Youngstown, Ohio 44505, with funeral services starting at 11:00 a.m.
Internment will follow at Todd Homestead Cemetery.
Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to L.E. Black, Phillips and Holden Funeral Home.
A television tribute will air Wednesday, May 31 at the following approximate times:
6:41 a.m. WYTV and 8:41 a.m. MyYTV and 9:58 a.m. on FOX plus two additional spots throughout the day.