FORT WAYNE, IN (NBC) - A former mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana has placed the city in the national spotlight because of his very unusual name and efforts by residents to name a building after him.
Finding the right name for the former Renaissance Square that's being turned into a city-county building has some people saying it should be named after the four-term mayor, Harry Baals.
The name is raising eyebrows and has stirred the internet with jokes, although city officials in Fort Wayne don't think it's a laughing matter.
"I was doing a 10 o'clock newscast and in the middle of the newscast up pops the story from the Mayor spelled b-a-a-l-s. Okay that was supposed to be pronounced Harry Bales... finished the newscast, went into the WOWO-AM newsroom and the phone rang about 30 seconds later," 85-year-old Fort Wayne Broadcasting Legend Bob Chase recalled.
"I picked it up and answered it WOWO News, and the voice said is Bob Chase there please and I said speaking, he said, 'son, this is your Mayor, and he says, I pronounce my name Balls,'" Chase said.
Chase began his radio career in Fort Wayne in 1953.
Baals was Fort Wayne's Mayor until 1954, when he died in office.
"Oh I think it's kinda funny," Baals' Great-Great-Nephew Jim Baals, who now pronounces the name "Bales," said.
"I also think this is the name people have voted for, I think the people should have their say," he said.
Jim Baals is a 30-year-veteran with the Fort Wayne Fire Department.
His Great-Great Grandfather, Clint Baals, was appointed Fort Wayne Fire Chief, when Former Mayor Harry Baals was in office.
It was Jim Baals' grandmother who changed the pronunciation to Bales, after she married his grandfather.
On Monday, Fort Wayne Deputy Mayor Beth Malloy told the Journal Gazette that naming the new government center, the Harry Baals Government Center, was "probably not" going to happen.
Mayor Harry Baals already has a street named after him.
It was previously known as Harry Baals Drive, but that changed to H.W. Baals Drive when multiple street signs were stolen.
"Since it's Uncle Harry, it should be Baals. They can do it like you said with the street name, H.W. instead of his entire name, I don't see a problem with it," Jim Baals said.
Meanwhile, Fort Wayne residents have the option of helping city leaders pick a new name and many are voting for the name of former Fort Wayne Mayor Harry Baals.
Online voting at feedbackfortwayne.org ends Friday.
Mayor Tom Henry's administration insists it likes the worldwide attention the city is getting over the naming of its downtown government center, even if it means being the subject of some jokes.
It's been a joke around town for decades, but his legacy is now putting Fort Wayne on the map for the rest of the world.
Whether or not it's the way you want to become famous is up for debate.
More than 18,700 votes had been cast for the Harry Baals Government Center by late afternoon Thursday.
Deputy Mayor Beth Malloy said city officials don't want to favor Harry Baals over any other ex-mayor.
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