Year in review


PREBLE COUNTY —2017 saw records broken in different ways in the county, from the nonprofit Bad Art, Good Folk fundraiser for the Preble County Art Association, to the annual Sale of Champions at the Preble County Fair. The year also saw two villages — Gratis and New Paris — celebrate their bicentennials, and the county and City of Eaton come to an agreement on merging the 9-1-1 dispatch service.

BAGF brings in over 50K

LEWISBURG — The Preble County Art Association may have to change the name of their event to Good Art, Great Folk, according to Executive Director Vicky Fanberg, who called the art created by this year’s nine participants “nothing less than stellar.”

The event, held Saturday, April 22, brought in over $50,000.

The 3rd Annual Bad Art, Good Folk event was hosted by the PCAA at Gatherings on the Green in Lewisburg. Nine “Good Folk,” their mentors, friends and family came together for the festivities which included dinner, live music from Richmond Symphony Orchestra’s Whitewater Trio, a variety of other refreshments, and a “no-holds-barred” auction, at the guidance of John Kramer.

The nine Good Folk were split into three teams who competed to raise the most votes (worth $1 each) and collect the highest bids.

Team Robert went home with the team trophies, raising $22,313. The Single Artist win went to Dr. Matt Roberts who collected what Fanberg called “a stunning” $11,257 between his winning bid and votes. Roberts owns Preble County Chiropractic Nutrition and Sports Injury Center and was greatly supported by his clients, friends and family.

All the participants worked hard and gave Roberts stiff competition. Collectively, this year’s teams were able to raise almost twice what was brought in 2016.

The 2017 teams included: Dr. Matt Roberts of Preble County Chiropractic, Brad Unger of Roselius Insurance and Meri Vosler, taught by artist Robert Coveney; Travis Early of Ace Hardware, Preble County Assistant Prosecutor, Eric Marit and Patty Wagner, taught by artist Erin Abney; Eaton Fire Chief Brian Smith, Chad Creech and Jean Bussell, taught by artist Gail Springer.

The Preble County Art Association offered thanks to all of the Good Folk, the team leaders and committee members who made the event successful.

“We are inspired by the generosity of the community and are carefully considering the ways we can better serve Preble County through arts and culture. The success of this event in both the funds raised but also the time and enthusiasm brought to the table is encouraging,” Fanberg said. “Funds raised from this event support PCAA programs that serve the community and make Preble County rich in arts and culture.”

Photos from this year’s event can be found at along with information about the Preble County Art Association, according to Fanberg.

Rotary Honor Scholars recognized

WEST ALEXANDRIA — The annual Rotary Honor Scholars banquet was held at Twin Valley South High School on Thursday, April 27.

The Rotary Honor Scholars banquet, coordinated by the Preble County Educational Service Center, recognizes sophomores, juniors, and seniors who are in the top 5 percent of their class.

The speaker at this year’s banquet was Robert G Keller Jr., AUA, University Architect Emeritus. Robert Keller was the University Architect and Campus Planner at Miami University for nearly 25 years, where he served as the director of the Division of Planning, Architecture and Engineering overseeing long range capital planning and all phases of design and major construction for the Oxford and regional campuses. Prior to his position with the university, Keller was in private architectural practice for fifteen years in Dayton, with an emphasis on corporate architecture and interior design.

Keller is now retired and lives in Oxford, with his wife Nancy, where he remains active as Miami University Architect Emeritus.

The following students were recognized as Honor Scholars:

Eaton High School: Seniors — Jacob Hickman, Daniel Howard, Megan Lipps, Emma McKinney, Grace Miller, Branden Moles, Danielle Newport, Lydia Noh, Brookelynn Selby, Jessica Spitler. Juniors — John Christman, Fletcher Durham, Allison hickman, Hannah Keller, Alyssa Maul, Katelyn Niehaus, Kenzie Rutherford, Sasha Taxter, Sarah Willis. Sophomores — John Altom, Savannah Burgess-Flack, Andrew Collins, Brandon Cottingim, Brennan Fogle, Nathan Gard, Mary Gething, Arica Hamilton, Kevin Lam, Ava Miller, Ryan Venable.

National Trail: Seniors — Branden Christensen, Tyler Glander, Austin Green, Peyton Harrison, Faith King. Juniors — Chloe Anderson, Katie Buehner, Erika Gallaher, SaraRae Hallstein, Michelle Massa. Sophomores — Savanna Abner, Jesse Biser, Adam Eyler, Elizabeth Melton, Paige Rike.

Preble Shawnee: Seniors — Addyson Anspaugh, Alec Hamblin, Kevin Ketring, Sidney Quillen, Elise Walker, Kassandra Wilson. Juniors — Joseph Bates, Kaitlynne Burton, Austin Fields, Jenniffer Profitt, David Yocom. Sophomores — Abigail Bulach, Kaylie Campbell, Jenna Lovely, Kyle Manley, Nicole Sims, Zach Warren.

Tri-County North: Seniors — Cal Boggs, Marley Judd, Jacob Louthan, Kaila McGee, Trenton Napier, Lindsay Owens, Haille Pitcock, Chelsey Strawser, John Stubblefield, Timothy Stubblefield, Kyle Sykes. Juniors — Olivia Baldasare, Brady Bateman, Ethan Cooley, Elizabeth Free, Echota Henderson, Ashley Johnson, Lauren Koenig, Jacob Offenbacker, Jacqueline Owens, Megan Poling, Hailey Thies, Kevin Tomlin, Emma Tobias. Sophomores — Alexander Boggs, Madison Cox, Riley Cruse, Mason Dreischarf, Sean Finnigan, Kyrstin Haney, Megan Herbert, Tessah Knisley, Kali Meyers, Kimberly Stacey, Mary Grace Toth, Casey Whipp.

Twin Valley South: Seniors — Andrew Augspurger, Haley Back, Abby Beneke, Emma Fergus, Sydney Vorhis, Madison Wright, Megan Wright. Juniors — Ryan Bassler, Hunter Bennett, Audrey Chesney, Mylan Crews, Rylee Emig, Chyann Kendel, Travis Lovely. Sophomores — Madison Blair, William Bowman, Jake Byrne, Thane Class, Chase Denlinger, Nathan Osborn, Erin Tebbe.

In a press release, the Preble County Educational Service Center offered its gratitude to the superintendents, principals, assistant principals, and counselors of each school district for their help in making this event possible. Also, a special thank-you went out to the Eaton Rotary Members for their support of each student from the five county schools who attended the dinner. “Appreciation goes to Twin Valley South for hosting and preparing the meal for the banquet,” ESC officials noted.

Teens arrested for murder

NEW PARIS —Two teenagers have been arrested and charged in the March murder of a New Paris resident.

On March 28, investigators from the Preble County Sheriff’s Office and New Paris Police Department began their investigation into the death of Travis Bourne of New Paris. His body was found inside his residence at 514 Cardinal Hill Drive on March 28. During the initial scene investigation, detectives determined two vehicles belonging to Bourne were missing from the residence.

According to Sheriff Mike Simpson, on April 10, a 1997 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, owned by Bourne, was recovered at a private campground near Alexandria, Indiana, in Madison County. That vehicle was towed back to Eaton where it was processed for evidence by detectives.

On April 28, PCSO detectives were contacted by the Anderson, Indiana Police Department During the course of a robbery investigation in Anderson, Bourne’s 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier was recovered.

“During Anderson PD’s robbery investigation, information became known that their suspect in the robbery case may be involved in our homicide investigation,” Simpson noted.

PCSO detectives traveled to Anderson on Friday, April 28, according to Simpson, and interviewed the suspect, identified as Tiyoune L. Hoskins.

During the interview with Hoskins, a second suspect, Ty Milik Dwayne Williams, was identified. He was located in Anderson at school.

“The second suspect was subsequently interviewed in our case,” Simpson said.

During interviews, both suspects confessed to being involved in the murder of Bourne. Investigators believe the victim met both suspects on a social media website. Detectives obtained arrest warrants for both suspects and both are currently being held in the Madison County, Indiana Jail.

Both will eventually be extradited back to Preble County, according to Simpson.

The Chevrolet Cavalier was returned to the Preble County Sheriff’s Office where it will be processed for evidence.

Hoskins, 19, was formally charged in Eaton Municipal Court with one count of aggravated murder and one count of murder.

Williams, 18, was formally charged in Preble County Juvenile Court with one count of aggravated murder and one count of murder. Williams was 17 years old at the time the murder occurred.

Detectives are continuing their investigation, and are conducting follow-ups based on the arrests of the suspects, according to Simpson.

May 13, 2017

Swihart named Senior of the Year

EATON —During Preble County Council on Aging’s Senior Day on Tuesday, May 9, Thelma Swihart was declared the Outstanding Senior of the Year for her contributions to the area.

Council on Aging Executive Director Shelley Ratliff began the award ceremony by presenting the history of the award.

“The process for outstanding Senior Citizens of the Year starts with the Area Agency on Aging and they ask for our county to provide them with names of folks who clearly represent the outstanding in aging field or atmosphere, taking care of seniors. The person needs to be at least 60 or older and have been born in the State of Ohio.

“What happens then is people send in nomination forms, and then the Area Agency on Aging advisory council vote on those. We are notified who received this honored award,” Ratliff said. “One of the really cool things about this award, is the plaque. That plaque stays at the county courthouse all the time, so anybody that comes into the county can actually see who the outstanding seniors are in the county.”

Ratliff then announced Swihart’s as the Outstanding Senior of the Year. Swihart was presented with a certificate and flowers. Wares Chapel United Methodist Church Pastor Laura Thomas took the podium to share why Swihart was nominated.

“It was not only my privilege to fill out and submit the nomination application for Thelma Swihart, but also to share with you the reasons for why we nominated her,” Thomas said, and then she thanked Swihart’s family for helping fill out the documentation. She explained that while she has known Swihart for the last four years, she was not aware of all Swihart had done throughout her life.

Swihart began her teaching career in this community in 1965. Prior to 1965, she had been a substitute teacher. Her full-time teaching career lasted a long 30 years. She was not only a classroom teacher of English, Spanish, and journalism, but she also served as the director and co-director of National Trail student plays, and advisor of the school newspaper and yearbook.

According to Thomas, one of Swihart’s daughters recalled, “Nothing much stopped her, I was in first grade when she started college and it was an adjustment for me. So she sometimes took me to her night classes, in Dayton. She brought materials for me to color and draw with and even had me change into my pj’s before we drove home. I did eventually make the adjustment.”

Thomas continued, “Most intriguing about Swihart’s teaching career is her additional role in the larger educational community. Thelma Swihart taught English as a second language to Japanese in our community. She began doing this in 1996. She has worked with over 20 families in her tutoring career, caring not just for their language skills, but also for their ability to integrate into our community in meaningful ways.”

According to Swihart’s son, she even went to several of the Japanese students’ college visits and orientations.

Her role in education earned her the Martha Holden Jennings award, given to Ohio Public School teachers. The mission of the foundation is to foster the development of young people and to encourage creativity in teaching.

According to Thomas, Swihart has been as committed to her roles at Wares Chapel as in her roles in education.

“Thelma has been a longstanding promoter of the Wesley Center of Dayton. The mission of the Wesley Center is to meet the spiritual and basic needs of families of all ages, offering assistance in Education and training, employment and human assistance, and transitioning families towards self sufficiency,” Thomas added. “Thelma has been a consistent supporter of that mission.”

In addition to her work in education and the church, Swihart’s children remember her feeding many strangers and local people. She would even make food baskets for them. She also had foreign exchange students live with the Swihart family.

“Swihart’s love and service for the community and the church is something that I’ve witnessed in the years that I have known her,” Thomas said. “I am her pastor and I have known her for four years. The first outstanding quality I noticed was her leadership ability.”

Swihart currently teaches one of the the Sunday School classes at Wares Chapel United Methodist church in West Manchester. After serving her term as a leader on the church’s administrative board, Pastor Thomas asked Swihart to read a book she had read in seminary about discipleship. Swihart took notes on the book and came back to Pastor Thomas ready for discussion. Thomas asked Swihart at that point to return to the administrative board.

Last August, Swihart approached her pastor with an idea to create an outdoor prayer service focusing on heroin and opioid abuse. According to Thomas, since that prayer meeting, Wares Chapel has been known as the community church praying about the drug epidemic.

Pastor Thomas added, “It does not take long in a conversation with Swihart to learn her most positive quality: thankfulness. Almost every conversation with her is filled with the presence of gratitude for her friends, her family, her church, and God. She speaks truthfully and directly, but never unkindly or complaining. She is truly a model of grace and perseverance. That is what I admire.

“At 86 years of age, Thelma Swihart proclaims, ‘God still has work for me to do.’ What a blessing she is on this community as she continues to do that work. So let’s recognize Thelma Swihart again as this year’s Outstanding Senior of the Year.”

Commissioners’ Ball gives to charities

ISRAEL TOWNSHIP — On Saturday, April 29, the Preble County Commissioners held the Sixth Annual Commissioners’ Charity Ball at the Hueston Woods State Park Lodge.

The event raised over $20,000.

The formal fundraising event, complete with dinner and dancing, has a mission of raising awareness “of the needs of the Preble County community and to solicit donations to support selected charities.”

The Preble County Development Partnership assists with the preparations for the charity ball.

Commissioners selected the four community organizations which will receive the proceeds from the event: Preble County Junior Fair Board, Youth For Christ, Twin Valley Rod & Gun Club and Preble County Meals on Wheels.

Junior Fair Board

The Preble County Junior Fair Board is a group of young people who coordinate the activities of all Preble County youth organizations at the Preble County Fair. These young people not only gain valuable life skills through their participation in Junior Fair Board but they also touch the lives of all Junior Fair exhibitors. By coordinating activities and events, the Junior Fair Board members help exhibitors showcase the project work done throughout the year and find satisfaction in a job well done. Junior Fair Board members also serve as role models for younger exhibitors sharing the values of the Preble County community, according to commissioners.

Youth For Christ

Youth for Christ helps local teenagers find positive direction, meaning, and purpose for their lives while building a strong foundation for life and positively impacting their schools. Since the vision of YFC is to see every young person experience the full life for which they were created, all teenagers are invited to take part in Youth for Christ activities. YFC partners with other like-minded businesses, organizations, churches and individuals to work with high school and middle school students through a wide variety of means including small and large group meetings, clubs, student leadership, big events, adventure trips, mission projects, and retreats. YFC encourages students to live a balanced life — socially, mentally, physically and spiritually.

Twin Valley Rod & Gun Club

The Twin Valley Rod & Gun Club of Preble County is one of the oldest conservation clubs in Southwest Ohio. The mission of this organization, founded in 1932, was primarily to conserve and protect the wildlife and habitat of the forests rich in deer, coyote, fox, rabbits and squirrels and the streams filled with fresh water fish. And this mission is still in existence today: conservation and protection.

One important emphasis of today’s TVRGC organization is on educating the county’s youth. Programs that emphasize education first and foremost continue to be a part of the national culture and are encouraged and supported. Continued support of hunter education classes taught at both the club and at Hueston Woods State Park give the youth an opportunity to be skilled outdoorsmen and safe hunters. The Annual Twin Valley Rod and Gun Club Youth Night activities provide the county’s youth and surrounding communities an opportunity to ask questions, gain information on the safe handling of firearms, and the experience of actually shooting a gun under the direction of certified Hunter Education instructors.

In the fall, the TVR&GC sponsors a pheasant hunt which gives young hunters a day in the field and a hands-on experience. This activity is made possible by volunteers on the local level and from grant monies from the state. More recently, the club has partnered with local school districts to promote archery programs within the classroom setting. Many students have enrolled in these programs and are enjoying the benefits of becoming knowledgeable and skilled in these outdoor sports. All of these programs are provided at no expense to the young participants.

Preble County Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels are provided to Preble County eligible seniors 60 years and older by the Preble County Council on Aging (PCCOA). A freshly prepared hot meal that meets 1/3 of a seniors Recommended Daily Intake is delivered each Monday through Friday. In addition to a nutritious meal, meal delivery provides a wellness check by a driver who is trained to respond to any emergencies that require immediate attention and to report any changes in the senior’s behavior or condition. Meal drivers provide individualized support for each senior meal recipient. The driver may help the senior by opening the meal or beverage, or they can also help in performing simple, daily tasks such as bringing in the mail. The recipients of the meals develop friendships with the delivery drivers and look forward to the meal as well as the visit.

Sponsors for this year’s gala included T&M Associates, Butler Rural Electric, Clemans-Nelson & Associates, Preble County Development Partnership, Lawn Plus, The Register-Herald, Hueston Woods Lodge & Conference Center, C. Gatland Photography & Design, Summitt Chiropractic, Roselius Insurance, Beck’s, Reid Health, Ohio CAT, Dan & Barbara Filbrun, Silfex, and Larkin Cobb Chevrolet, Buick, GMC.

June 3, 2017

Joyce named UW Preble Director

DAYTON — The United Way of the Greater Dayton Area has hired Preble County native, Alexa Joyce, to serve as the new Director of its Preble County Branch.

As United Way’s new Preble County Director, Joyce will use her skills and talents to help strengthen and preserve our community’s network of health and human services. She will work with the many United Way volunteers in Preble County to not only raise money for United Way but also to help distribute those donations to local agencies and programs.

Joyce graduated Summa Cum Laude from Ohio University with a BS in Communications and Marketing in 2015. She lives in Eaton, Ohio.

Tween Filmmakers’ club

EATON — The Preble County District Library’s Tween Filmmakers Club had an opportunity to see its hard work pay off during the group’s first movie screening, held on Wednesday, May 31.

This session of the library’s Tween Filmakers club ended with the final project showing, where the youth got to invite their families to watch the movie with them and tour the new Maker’s Space in the Brooke-Gould Memorial Library.

The Tween Filmmakers club is a program which has been going on for three years, with this current round being the sixth program. However, according to library officials, this session has been the most interactive to date and has molded what future sessions will look like.

The Tween Filmakers Club started as a small idea and has only grown over the years. Most have been housed in Eaton’s Library, but one was at Eldorado’s.

For the last four weeks the youth have come in on Wednesday for an hour of writing, prop and costume making, filming, and editing. There were nine participants in the most recent session. These are all kids who have never had any experience making films. The staff teaches them everything and lets creativity take control.

“It was really cool because this is the first time that we’ve gotten to use the new Maker Space,” Youth Services Manager Sarah Tozier said. “We got a lot of the things in that space from an LSTA Grant. We got a green screen wall and there’s a sewing machine, so they were each able to have a short sewing lesson and make their own costumes. It was the most interactive film club that we’ve had so far. As far as them being able to have their hand in every part of it, as far as making props and editing.”

Tozier added, only one kid had experience using a sewing machine prior to the activity.

As Tozier mentioned, the library was awarded a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant to fund the Tween Filmakers Club and the new Maker Space. The LSTA grant is funded through the independent federal agency IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services.) The funds are used in one of three ways: to support in-house initiatives, to support statewide initiatives, or for competitive grant programs.

All types of libraries are eligible for LSTA grants.

According to Tozier, the idea was to get better equipment for the Tween Filmakers Club. The grant was for roughly $4,000 and has been used to buy the sewing machine, green screen paint, a camera, a computer, and materials for the movie project. Now the staff has to survey the participants to see if they learned anything — that information will be turned in to the state, to prove the project has made an impact.

Youth Programming Specialist Magrace Landwehr added, “It’s stuff that they can use outside of the program too. If they want to sew, they can come in and use the sewing machine when they want to. If they liked using the green screen, they can make their own videos with it. It’s stuff that they can come back and use outside of this program as well.”

Tozier noted, if they find something they enjoy, such as sewing, through this project, then that is a lifelong joy they’ve been introduced to.

“They get a complete thing at the end of it,” Landwehr said, noting that the kids all get a copy of their movie at the end of the screening. “The biggest challenge is just the time, that it’s such a time crunch to get all nine kids through the sewing machine in one hour. One hour to get all nine kids learning how to edit. They have a little bit of a challenge with the time, but I think they enjoy it and the extra intensity makes it exciting.”

While the kids did edit the videos themselves, Clayton Jaros helped along the way. Landwher and Tozier also stressed, the new Maker Space is open to the public, not just the kids in the program.

PCDL holds the TweenFilmakers Club roughly twice a year, with the next one slated to start around October. If interested in signing up, simply look on or call the library for information.

June 7, 2017

Lewisburg awarded grant

PREBLE COUNTY — The Board of Preble County Commissioners was awarded a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) of $300,000 for the Program Year 2016 CDBG Competitive Downtown Revitalization program for the Village of Lewisburg’s downtown business district.

The Downtown Revitalization program is designed to assist the rehabilitation of downtown business districts through activities like facade and sign improvements, and correction of interior and exterior building code items to business structures in the downtown district; installation of streetscape items; and rehabilitation of the downtown infrastructure of streets, sidewalks, storm drainage, etc.

This is the first Downtown Revitalization grant awarded to Preble County. It is one of only seven such grants awarded throughout the state for Program Year 2016.

The grant application to the state was a collaborative effort of the Preble County Commission’s staff, the Village of Lewisburg, and the Lewisburg Chamber of Commerce. The Commission Office staff prepared the application, using information requested and provided by the village. As part of the grant requirements, Lewisburg designated the Downtown Business District as a half block area on both sides of Commerce Street (Ohio 503) from Market Street north three blocks to North Water Street. The Lewisburg Chamber of Commerce and the village, working together, met with the local business owners to make the owners aware of the grant program and get the owners’ support.

The grant will be used to help repair buildings, develop a downtown green space, install benches, planters and decorative street lights, and replace deteriorated sidewalks, storm sewer, and fire hydrants in the Lewisburg Downtown Business District. The grant will be used to provide 50 percent of the building rehabilitation cost with the business owner providing 20 percent and the village providing the remaining 30 percent of the cost.

The grant will also be used to purchase streetscape items and help with the cost of the infrastructure improvements.

Currently, the commission staff and the village are working together on the implementation of grant, preparing the necessary documents for the administration of the grant, meeting with and accepting applications from business owners, and working on the infrastructure components.

June 10, 2017

Stock market winner

EATON — William Bruce Elementary fifth grader (soon to be sixth grader) Katey Bryant placed 10th out of over 9,000 participants in a nationwide program called the “Stock Market Game.”

During the fifth grade award assembly on Tuesday, May 23, Bryant was recognized for her achievement in front of her entire class. She was awarded two separate plaques, one for her to keep and one to keep in the trophy case at Bruce.

The elementary school participated with select fifth graders in the “Stock Market Game.”

According to teacher Bill Aukerman, students explored the fundamentals of personal finance and investing, while practicing content and skills in math, English language arts, economics, social studies, and other subjects.

Students worked in teams to build and manage their investment portfolio in a real world, dynamic marketplace, learned to analyze and make decisions, explore the consequences of their financial choices, and seek new ways to strategize for success.

In addition, students took part in an essay contest called InvestWrite. The contest was based on the following criteria: the essay had to be written about a chosen company that first started by one or two people and then grew into a corporation, had to provide a brief history of the student’s chosen company, and had to include evidence through research on why or why not the student’s chosen company was worth investing in through the Stock Market.

Bryant won $100.

During the awards assembly, Principal Kip Powell said, “We’re going to give Katey a plaque that says, ‘Stock Market Game National Writing Competition tenth out of 9,000, Katey Bryant’. This is going to be hers to take home. We have this plaque that has her picture. We figured she knows what she looks like, but we want people who don’t know to see it here. We’re going to take this plaque here and keep it at the school and display it in our trophy case. Congratulations.”

Powell added, he was expecting a guest from the Cincinnati region to speak to Bryant, but at time of the assembly the guest had not quite shown up. He promised that if she did, he would make sure Bryant had a chance to talk to her.

“The program is a good experience and I was kinda surprised when I got the award, but I was even more surprised when I heard that there were 9,000 competitors,” Bryant said.

June 14, 2017

Strawser honored

RICHMOND, INDIANA — Each year the Optimist Club of Eaton and Optimist International set aside the first week of May as “Respect for Law Week.” During this time the club honors a local law enforcement officer who goes above and beyond the call of duty.

On Saturday, May 6, 2017, the Optimist Club of Eaton held their “Respect for Law Week” recognition dinner at the MCL restaurant in Richmond, Indiana. After dinner “Respect for Law” Chairman Ken House presented the Officer of the Year plaque to Chief Terry Strawser of the West Alexandria Police Department.

“Chief Strawser was selected due to his work with his K-9 partner in the apprehension of a suspect in Brookville last year,” Chairman Ken House said.

The Brookville Police Department was involved in an incident at the Speedway service station at Arlington Road and Interstate 70. During this incident a female was shot and killed by police and her boyfriend fled the area. Chief Strawser and his K-9 partner were called upon to assist in locating the male suspect. They successfully located the suspect and he was taken into custody without incident.

“The Optimist Club of Eaton wants to thank and congratulate Chief Strawser and his K-9 partner for their heroic deed,” House said.

Gratis celebrates bicentennial

GRATIS — The Village of Gratis celebrated it’s 200th birthday this past weekend, beginning with a parade on Saturday, June 10.

The two-day celebration featured contests, food, and a speech by Donnie Lewis, tour manager of Peter Frampton.

The parade featured floats from organizations including: Preble County Honor Guard, Gratis Fire and EMS, Grand Marshal Lewis, 1967 Sesquicentennial King Darrell Friend, 1967 Sesquicentennial Queen Martha Zimmerman Davis, Preble County Council on Aging’s 2017 Prom King and Queen Gene Sandlin and Pam Hines, the Preble Shawnee High School Arrows, participants from the bike and car show, the Preble County Republican Party, the First Brethren Church, and more.

Following the parade, the opening speech was given by Grand Marshal Lewis. He was introduced by Dwanye Reynolds.

Reynolds said, “It was at Gratis Junior High that I first met Donnie Lewis. It was where we brought West Elkton, Camden, and Gratis together all in one place to join in our junior high education. It was where I first met Donnie and I saw him from afar and I said, ‘There goes another white haired guy with glasses, maybe me and him can pal up.’

“As our school years went and as we moved along, we went into high school, collectively Donnie has been one of the most stable friends anyone could ask for. He’s been friends with everybody that he has come into contact with and I’ve never heard him say a bad thing about anybody, nor have I heard anybody say a bad thing about him. That says a lot about his character and that says a lot about his hometown roots here in Gratis.”

Reynolds continued to share that Lewis started out wanting to be a veterinarian, but felt a “yearning” to be a musician. Lewis left the area in the 1980s, where he eventually became a drummer for the band the Mid South Boys in Tennessee. He got other opportunities to work behind the scenes with bands, running them and touring with them.

He got the mentorship of George Ritchie, the husband of Tammy Wynette.

“Moving on, Donnie [Lewis] took over the Tammy Wynette tour,” Reynolds said. “He then moved to Trisha Yearwood, and he was with her for over a decade. He was also part of the World Garth Brooks tour, he has also attended the White House four times, and he has also been part of the winter Olympics. He has also participated in the Oscars, toured all 50 states and 23 countries around the world. The whole time the artists put their complete trust in this man to put on the best show he can.

“For those of you who have been fortunate to see one of the shows that this man puts on, it’s phenomenal.”

Currently, Lewis works as Peter Frampton’s tour manager, as he has for the past 14 years.

Before Lewis began to speak he urged Reynolds to lead the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to the village.

Lewis thanked the mayor and the Gratis Bicentennial Committee for all the work they put into the celebration.

“I’m so proud of Gratis, you have no idea,” Lewis said. “As I came in late last night, there was no on here but myself and my car. Walking around and seeing the sign, ‘Founded 1817,’ Robin told me that they just found that sign in a storage area. I love that sign. This, for me, has turned absolutely full circle. Never in a million years when I walked these streets during the carnivals that they had in Gratis each year, would I realize I would be up here, but the full circle part is where this young lady is over in the red over here. Just above in that window, that’s where I was raised the first four years of my life.

“I was a resident of Gratis for 21 years and very proud to call myself from Gratis. When I’ve done interviews before, in trade magazines for music magazines and TV shows, they ask me where I’m from. I don’t say Dayton, I don’t say Cincinnati, I don’t say Middletown, I say, ‘I’m from Gratis, Ohio and I’m very proud of it.’”

He continued, “When I was asked here to speak for a few moments, I had no idea what I was going to speak on and I have spoken all over the world to entrepreneurs and music students and had a blast doing that and I do it so easily. When they asked me to do it here I said, ‘No, are you kidding me? Some of those people know me.’ So you guys made me a nervous wreck today. I’ve been practicing this hour upon hour, but I’m going to throw the notes out the widow and say what’s on my heart and what’s on my mind today.

“Dwayne [Reynolds] introduced me as Peter Frampton’s tour manager, there is one thing I would like to correct. If you followed me around for one day, you would suddenly realize that my title should be Peter Frampton’s executive baby sitter, because that is what I do. It’s been fun over the years. But I want to talk a little bit about the history of Gratis. Now, I could stay here all day and tell you things I know about Gratis and things people have told me today and in the past, but I’m just going to hit on a couple things.

“When you realize that 1817 was so long ago, James Monroe was the president of the United States when Gratis was turned into a village. That’s amazing. If you look back in history, there were only three presidents before that when Gratis became a village. That was Madison, Jefferson, and Washington. Four presidents and then this little town became a village. That’s amazing to me.

“Mississippi was the 20th state, became in the same month a state that Gratis became a little town. Gratis was created and became a village before 31 states were states. Just to give you an idea of how far back our history goes.

“I think a lot about Gratis and when I’m watching my favorite TV show, Mayberry R.F.D. Andy Griffith,” Lewis said. “To be realistic, town of Gratis, you know what? If the producers would of come to Gratis back then they would have said, ‘Forget Mayberry R.F.D. this needs to be either a reality city or a city like Mayberry R.F.D.’”

“Three things happened in Gratis that were very instrumental to my music career,” Lewis continued. “Does anybody know Trisha Yearwood? When I got the call to work for Trisha Yearwood, I was sitting in my mom’s kitchen. I’m a prankster and people at school and churches knew that. I thought that this lady was getting me back. I get the phone and she said, ‘Is this Donnie?’ I said, ‘Yes, it is.’ She said, ‘This is Trisha Yearwood.’ I said, click. She calls back five minutes and said, ‘Do no hang up the phone, this is really Trisha Yearwood I met you on the Tammy Wynette Tour, we’re getting ready to lose our tour manager, interested in knowing if you are interested in auditioning for the job?’

“I said, ‘If this is really Trisha Yearwood, I think I would be the craziest person on the planet if I did not come and interview.’ I went to Nashville, seven other people interviewed for the job. Somehow, someway, probably because I had some amazing teachers, I got the job as Trisha Yearwood’s tour manager and was on the Garth Brooks World Tour for two years and with Trisha Yearwood for 11 years — and I was in little tiny Gratis, Ohio when I got the call.”

He finished, “And last but not least, it’s really cool that there’s a little dot on the map that runs between 503, 122, and 725. It’s a little tiny village that’s been around for a couple hundred years, tomorrow. And I can say happy birthday and most importantly I am glad that I am from the great community of Gratis, Ohio!”

The two-day celebration also featured music by Bad Men on a Mission & Tall Paul Boyd, Thumb Up, Lexi Dawn, Worley Boys, James Mathes, and Thankful Hearts. In addition to the music, there were numerous food vendors and attractions throughout the celebration.

There were raffles, souvenirs available, a dunk tank sponsored by Shell, bouncy houses, a photo booth, face painting and hair chalk, a cornhole tournament, cutest baby contest, longest beard contest, a pie auction, and a birthday cake.

One of the big attractions to the celebration was the opening of a time capsule left over from the Gratis Sesquicentennial. Lewis read a note from the capsule as the Bicentennial explored the contents. The items from the capsule will be on display at the Gratis Library for the rest of the month.

The committee is planning on closing the capsule in the fall.

This year’s Bad Art, Good Folk Single Artist win went to Dr. Matt Roberts, who collected $11,257 between his winning bid and votes. year’s Bad Art, Good Folk Single Artist win went to Dr. Matt Roberts, who collected $11,257 between his winning bid and votes.

Thelma Swihart was nominated for Outstanding Senior of the Year by her Pastor Laura Thomas for her long career in education and her dedication to Wares Chapel United Methodist Church in West Manchester. Swihart was nominated for Outstanding Senior of the Year by her Pastor Laura Thomas for her long career in education and her dedication to Wares Chapel United Methodist Church in West Manchester.

Katey Bryant placed 10th out of 9,000 in the nationwide Stock Market Game. Bryant placed 10th out of 9,000 in the nationwide Stock Market Game.

The Village of Gratis just celebrated it’s 200th birthday, with a festival which included opening a buried time capsule. Village of Gratis just celebrated it’s 200th birthday, with a festival which included opening a buried time capsule.
May-June 2017

R-H Staff

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