Herb Mericle’s Tradition Continues During January 1 Polar Plunge

Waterville Mayor Tim Pedro (right) takes a video as revelers head into – and quickly back out of – the Maumee River for the annual polar plunge. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — “Refreshing.” That’s the word Melissa McPartland of Maumee and Azia McCahan of Bowling Green each used to describe their sojourns into the Maumee River water on January 1 at 2:30 p.m.

McPartland and McCahan were among the dozens of revelers who trekked to Memorial Park near the Waterville bridge on New Year’s Day for the annual polar plunge.

“I’ve done it before – in 2014 or 2016 – but I’ve had a few babies so I couldn’t go jumping in for a few years,” said McCahan, who convinced her friend, Brittany Marquart, to give it a try for the first time. “It lets all your worries go. It’s a new year and it’s a new you.”

In 2019, McPartland joined her friends Amanda Teszner, Hillary Gibson and Brynn Conine in the plunge that was held at Buttonwood Park in Wood County due to the Waterville bridge construction.

“It’s a good way to start the new year with a bang,” McPartland said. 

John Pietras of Toledo took his first plunge in 2018.

“It was very memorable. You go in and wake up a new man. It was a good time,” said Pietras, as he gathered in the parking lot with Ty Allen, William Pietras, Nate Allen, Dan Peffley and Sam Klueber prior to the plunge.

Jenny Pfleghaar, Keri Schoen and Kelly Obermiller donned their patriotic swimwear for the event, accompanied by Jenny’s husband, Chip. Their sons, Cyrus Pfleghaar and Landon Obermiller, also took the plunge. While the rest of the crowd quickly returned to shore, Jenny remained submerged up to her neck for several minutes.

“It feels good. I’m used to it. I cold-plunge at home,” Jenny said, obviously enjoying the water.

Air temperatures were 47 degrees with a southwest wind of 10 mph, leaving a feels-like temperature of 41 degrees while the water was 33 degrees, according to Waterville Deputy Fire Chief Zach Bingham. He and members of the police and fire departments stood nearby and watched while Mayor Tim Pedro took photos and greeted the crowd.

“This looks great,” Pedro said, looking at the cleared-out riverbank and new overlook with a swing and open green that are Phase 1 of the Parker Square and Memorial Park improvements.

With the opening of the bridge and the park, this is the first time the area has been open for the polar plunge in several years. 

The late Herb Mericle, a Waterville Primary School crossing guard and war veteran, took the very first polar plunge in 1929. He eventually began jumping in the river each New Year’s Day at 2:30 p.m. in honor of his wedding anniversary. As more joined him, the tradition grew. He took his last dip at age 95 in 2002. He died at age 101 on January 18, 2008. Many who participate in the polar plunge each year do so in his honor.

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