‘It’s all about the hat’

July 11th, 2018 Posted in From Our Alumni
UT alumni unexpectedly meet group of Toledoans in middle of ocean

By Laurie B. Davis

Not long after their ship departed Barcelona, Barbara and Eldon Sheffer encountered an unexpected, but pleasant surprise on their Viking ocean cruise. “We were on this cruise, and this very nice man with this University of Toledo hat on got on our elevator. We were shocked. We got to talking about when we graduated and how long we’ve been gone. He told us a big group of Toledoans, most of them alumni, were on this cruise,” says Barbara.

The man in the UT hat was Leon Kwait (Pharm ’64), who was traveling with his wife, Gail, and about 25-plus people, all of whom had some affiliation with The University of Toledo or were Toledo residents. The Kwaits, who live in Sylvania, own Let’s Cruise Inc. They frequently travel with a large contingent of UT alumni, emeritus professors, current professors and Toledoans. And on this particular trip, many of the UT alumni were graduates of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, from which Leon Kwait graduated.

Barbara Sheffer and Gail Kwait organized a group photo shoot aboard a Viking ocean cruise of nearly 30 University of Toledo alumni, emeritus professors, current professors and Toledoans. Barbara and her husband Eldon Sheffer met many of the Toledoans who noticed Eldon’s UT T-shirt. The Sheffers recognized Leon Kwait’s UT hat that stood out among the travelers. Above, Kwait wears his UT hat, seated in the front row. His wife, Gail, sits beside him in a red sweater. Seated on Leon’s other side is Eldon Sheffer, wearing his UT T-shirt. His wife, Barbara, is seated next to him, wearing a stiped shirt. All of the UT affiliates and Toledo residents posed for the group photo, joined by the cruise chef, standing in the center, and two cruise directors on the far left and far right, standing in the front row.

The Kwaits once owned and operated The Colony Pharmacy in Toledo, and then Leon and his business partner Martin Davis (Pharm ’59) owned The Pharmacy Counter chain. “We had our own pharmacies until about 12 years ago,” says Leon. They started their cruise travel business 25 years ago, while still running the pharmacies. “Curt Black (Pharm ’74, ’76,’78), was on this trip, and his father (Art) used to be my pharmacy professor,” says Leon.

Leon says his travel group arrived in Madrid two nights before the cruise left the Barcelona port so they could visit Toledo, Spain. “Ninety-nine percent of them [the travelers] wanted to go and they asked us to put it together, so we did.”

The Sheffers, now retired, long-time residents of Texas, were on their third cruise, a two-week journey by sea from Barcelona to Norway. “We usually carry some type of Toledo clothing to wear. My husband had a big Toledo shirt, so he’d pop that on in the afternoon, and we’d be walking around this cruise ship, and we kept having more and more people come up and visit with us and tell us where they went to high school, when they graduated,” says Barbara.

“One of them was a sweet lady who had actually taught at Deveaux School, where I went to school, so we talked about my principal.” They met couples whose romances began in Toledo, which have since resulted in happy marriages, says Barbara. “We just really had fun with it,” she adds.  

“Of course, they talked about the glory days of football with Chuck Ealey and all of those folks,” says Barbara of the men on the cruise.

“And Greg Wojciechowski, who won the NCAA wrestling championship,” adds Eldon.

“I was the resident advisor for the football team when I was a senior, and I was in engineering, and I was a wrestler, so they thought that was a good combination to have to keep peace in the dormitory for the football team,” Eldon says. “They won every single game that year, and Barb and I went to the Tangerine Bowl in 1969, which they won.

“We watched this year, in 2017, when The University of Toledo won the MAC Championship,” says Eldon. “We’re really excited when we can watch the Rockets on television in Texas,” adds Barbara.

The Sheffers are getting ready for another Viking cruise from Venice to Barcelona. And the Kwaits will head to China in October with another group of avid travelers.

“My advice is that whenever you go on a trip, take something that says Toledo on it because you never know when you’re going to meet a Toledoan,” says Barbara. “Here we were, out in the middle of the ocean, and we spot this Toledo hat. Well, it’s all about the hat,” jokes Barbara. We’re Texans! But when we see anything that says Toledo, we stop and introduce ourselves.”

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