EATON — The ninth annual Hall of Honor induction ceremony will take place this Sunday, July 7, during the Preble County Historical Society’s Old Fashioned Independence Day Celebration.
The Hall of Honor is a joint effort of The Preble County Historical Society and The Register-Herald. In celebration of its 40th anniversary in 2011, the Preble County Historical Society (PCHS) created a Hall of Honor. The PCHS Board of Trustees designated that the Hall of Honor be named the Sara Swartsel Hall of Honor in recognition of the heritage and philanthropy of the Swartsel Family as demonstrated by Sara’s enduring gift to the Preble County Historical Society and the Preble County community of her family farm in southeast Preble County.
The Register-Herald joined the PCHS as co-sponsor of the Hall of Honor in recognition of the natural partnership of the two organizations in recording the history of Preble County every day. This annual process provides each entity with many opportunities to collaborate publicly on the project in ways that promote the value of both to the residents and businesses of the county.
In 2019 the Hall of Honor inducts its ninth membership class. The groups will honor the 2019 inductees and their families with the dedication of plaques in their honor at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Old Fashioned Independence Day Celebration at the Preble County Historical Center and The Amphitheater.
Inductees must be deceased and have lived in Preble County at some point in their lives; further, they must meet one or more of the following requirements: have been outstanding in achievement in agriculture, arts, professions, politics, public service, education, or sports; or have a reputation that brings honor to the county, or personal commitment and service to the county; or had a lasting impact on the county.
Nominations to the 2020 Hall of Honor can be made by visiting the Preble County Historical Society’s web site at www.preblecountyhistoricalsociety.org and downloading an application to complete and submit. Nominations may also be emailed to the society at firstname.lastname@example.org. Call the society at 937-787-4256 and leave a message requesting a nomination form if necessary.
The deadline for 2020 nominations is Wednesday, April 1, 2020.
2019 Hall of Honor Inductees include: Paul E. Fitzwater (1914-2007) and Ruth Phelps Fitzwater (1916-2004;) Kenneth J. Garber (1923-2016) and William R. Goodheart Jr. (1902-1960.)
Paul Fitzwater was born in West Manchester and graduated from Monroe Central High School in 1931 and Miami University in 1935 with a bachelor’s degree in music. His first jobs as high school band director were in Newton Falls, Sabina, Washington Court House, Piqua, Eaton (1946-47), and finally Sidney, where he taught for 35 years. He started in Sidney as high school band director and taught elementary instrumental music, saying that he had to learn to play every instrument so that he could get young students started on whatever musical instrument they wanted to learn! He became music supervisor for the entire city school system but retained director responsibilities for the high school orchestra and dance band. His high school orchestras frequently earned the highest rating of superior at state competitions.
Ruth Phelps Fitzwater was born in St. Paris but grew up in Sabina, where she graduated from high school in 1934. She graduated from Wilmington College in 1938 where she majored in music education and was a member of the Delta Kappa Gamma education honorary. She returned to Sabina to teach music in the local schools and married Paul Fitzwater in 1939. In 1955 Ruth returned to teaching elementary vocal music in the Sidney schools. She provided opportunities for students to perform in musical plays and to get their first experiences in performing on stage as well as in the classroom. She directed an annual concert of all the fifth and sixth graders at the high school with typically over 500 students performing. Ruth directed the junior and youth choirs in sacred vocal music at the First United Methodist Church. She also coordinated special seasonal concerts with all four church choirs and guest vocalists and instrumentalists.
When Paul retired to Preble County, he became lay leader of the Ware’s Chapel United Methodist Church and continued his membership in Rotary, leading the singing as he had for every Rotary club where he was a member. In 1993 Paul was named a Paul Harris Fellow from the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. He served as director of the Preble County Historical Society for a short time and was the first director of the Preble County Bureau of Support. He volunteered as Weather Observer for the National Weather Service for 23 years, was active in the Preble County Farm Bureau, and disc jockeyed at WKBV Radio.
Ruth‘s greatest contribution to Preble County was at her beloved Ware’s Chapel United Methodist Church. She played piano twice a month, often with her dear friend Louise Stockslager who played the organ. She directed the choir(s) and was greatly involved in United Methodist Women, assisting with meeting planning, musical accompaniment to singing, and always working at their events. She received Special Mission Recognition by United Methodist Women in November 1998. Throughout her life, Ruth maintained her membership in the Order of the Eastern Star.
Paul’s musical leadership is legendary in the Sidney Public Schools. He was inducted into the school’s Hall of Honor in 2001. The recognition identified him as an inspiring music educator, professional dance band director, director of the expansion of the vocal and instrumental music department from two to eight professional staff members, and community leader. In 1955 the high school band went to the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC and won first place in the competition. Paul oversaw the recording and distribution of two records featuring the marching band’s halftime shows as well as the high chorus, orchestra, and concert band. Those albums recently have been re-mastered into digital recordings and sold as fundraisers for the current music program.
Paul and Ruth established an eight-piece professional dance band known as “The Keynotes” and played throughout West-Central Ohio in the 1950s and ‘60s. Paul played tenor saxophone and clarinet and Ruth played piano. Together they managed the band, found the gigs, and presented big band and swing music for thousands of dancers and music lovers!
Paul and Ruth were held in high regard by their former students. Letters from those students shared their life successes with Paul and Ruth (known fondly as Mr. and Mrs. Fitz) and their appreciation for the role that music played in their lives. Indeed Paul and Ruth were among those rare teachers who inspire students, build a program, sustain a program, and retire with the love and respect of students and peers.
Paul and Ruth had four children: Jane Fitzwater Parke (Kingwood, Texas,) Julie Fitzwater Preuninger (Asheville, North Carolina,) Jean Fitzwater Bussell (Monroe Township/Preble County) and John Phelps Fitzwater (deceased).
Kenneth Garber’s principal contribution to the history and welfare of Preble County is his 2004 donation of the 110-acre Garber family farm, now the Allen and Adaline Garber Nature Center, to Preble County.
For many years following his donation he helped to oversee and financially support the establishment of the Preble County Park District and the Garber Nature Center. The Center has evolved in the very first Preble County Park. This donation inspired other gifts, such as the Devil’s Backbone area in Somers Township, which will insure the future growth and contribution of the Park District to the quality of life in Preble County.
The Garber Nature Center features hiking trails, nature classes for children, a wetlands area, a conservation program, a pavilion, and a viewing platform in the forest for picnics. Under the guidance of the Preble County Historical Society, the 1870’s era farmhouse also has been restored with Garber family artifacts and now provides an inviting educational space for tours and meetings in the area. Antiques, household items, clothing, quilts, and many other historical furnishings also were donated to the Preble County Historical Society and those that could not be housed permanently at the Garber Farm permanently are now a part of the important collections at the Historical Society itself.
Garber was a gentle, soft-spoken, generous man who loved Preble County and life in the country. He often said that he wanted most of all to protect the land and its natural gifts from increased development and commercialization – his reason for making the donation in the first place. He also set an inspiring example of a life well-lived. He was a grandson of Allen and Adaline Garber. His father Virgil tragically died when Kenneth was only a boy. His mother Clara passed away a few years later. Kenneth, then fourteen years old and orphaned, was taken in by his two aunts on the Garber farm. He was always grateful to them and to the teachers and neighbors in Lewisburg who stepped in to help him grow up.
He was particularly grateful to Granville Kumler, publisher of the Lewisburg Leader who became his guardian. Kumler carefully invested the small bit of insurance money from Kenneth’s father and saw to it that it paid for Garber’s college education. Harry Hoffman, Superintendent of Lewisburg schools, also took an interest and personally measured Kenneth’s finger for his class ring.
With the help of music teacher Mary Voge of West Alexandria, Garber became a gifted organist playing first in a church in Lewisburg while in high school and then for over fifty years in the First Lutheran Church in Cincinnati. He also served in the U. S Army in World War II. Though his dream was to attend the Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, Garber chose the less expensive and more practical path and became an accountant, spending all his working years in that profession.
Kenneth Garber really never left the farm, however, coming up from Cincinnati to help his family here as often as he could and maintaining friendships in Preble County throughout his years. It was entirely right that the farm would end up in his hands and that he would then donate it to the place he loved the most.
Garber is survived by nieces and nephews including Barbara Shyrich (New Lebanon), Sarah Olwin (Defiance,) James Radabaugh (Michigan,) David Radabaugh (Texas,) John Radabaugh (Florida) and cousin Brenda Mezz (Eaton.)
William Gooheart Jr.
In 1943 William Goodheart Jr., first came to Preble County to visit his friend Charles Swafford who was from Preble County. Goodheart liked the rural life so much that he soon moved to Preble County and began his life of contributions to the community. He became an active Preble County farmer, specializing in Aberdeen-Angus cattle, Hampshire hogs, and certified seed. He used his dynamic energy to make his farm one of the outstanding ones in the area, and his livestock were awarded many blue ribbons from state fairs throughout the Midwest. While in the county, he served as president of the Eaton Rotary Club, the Eaton Country Club, the Eaton Masonic Lodge, and Elder in the Eaton Presbyterian Church.
In 1951 Goodheart answered the call to return to the music and media business to become executive vice president and general manager of Official Films, Inc., with the plan to build, produce, sell and rent television programs on film in New York City. The firm’s founder was I. D. Levy, also the founder of Columbus Broadcasting System and Columbia Records. At the time, Goodheart said that he planned to keep his farm intact so that he could return to the farm whenever he liked. Nevertheless, he realized that television was bound to be a revolutionary factor in the American way of life, and the opportunity to get in on the ground floor was enticing.
Dealing with entertainment in general and music in particular was a part of Goodheart’s early life as well. In 1924 he was one of the founders of Music Corporation of America (MCA) which booked orchestras and other musical talent. He was executive vice president of MCA until he decided to take life a bit easier on his farm in Preble County.
By 1956 Goodheart had spent nearly a quarter of a century as a leading discoverer, developer, and manager of stars in the entertainment world. He joined the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) in an executive capacity to work on all aspects of the network operations.
Goodheart played a major role in creating many of the hits of radio’s golden age in the 1930’s. Some of his top performers continued to be top attractions thirty or more years later. The wide scope of his experience, his close relationships with leading performers, his ability to inspire confidence among entertainers and to develop them into attractions all contributed to his position at NBC. Among the attractions he helped develop were the Guy Lombardo programs with Burns and Allen, the Jack Benny show, and the legendary Ben Bernie program from Chicago’s College Inn, and other orchestras such as Eddie Duchin, Horace Heidt, Tommy Dorsey, Bennie Goodman, Kay Kyser, and Sammy Kaye.
Goodheart was born in Chicago and graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1920. He attended the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois. Though early in his life he wanted to be a doctor, he gave up that idea to become one of the big names in the entertainment world. Throughout his life he enjoyed music personally and played piano and electric organ for his personal pleasure. Goodheart sold his farms in Preble County and retired to Phoenix, Arizona in 1958. There he organized a seven-piece Dixieland Band and played for community affairs “just for kicks.” He also served as executive vice president of the Russ Lyon Real Estate Investment Company and maintained his membership in Rotary and other civic organizations.
Goodheart is survived by his daughter Margaret “Peggy” Madden who was married at the Goodheart farm in Preble County and now lives in Decatur, Illinois, and by his son William R. Goodheart III of Phoenix Arizona.
Past Hall of Honor Inductees
2018 inductees included Sherwood Anderson, 1876-1941; Alfa Lloyd Hayes, 1880-1962; Phyllis Ashman Campbell “Mama Jazz,” 1922-2011; Mary Gould Brooke, 1858-1946 and Edith Gould, 1855-1946; Susan Haines Kendall, 1952-2005 ; George Wadlington, 1928-1996 and Glendine Huggins Wadlington, 1928-1992.
2017 inductees included James Edward Quinn, 1920-1997; Colonel Charles M. Hendricks M.D., 1877-1953; Clarence Irvin Kesler, 1882-1975.
2016 inductees included Irene Hardy, 1841-1922; Billy J. “Bill” Sewert, 1923-2003; Larry A. Hart, 1941-1991.
2015 inductees included William Bruce, 1762-1830; Cornelius Van Ausdal, 1783-1870; Sarah Elizabeth Daughtery Reynolds, 1845-1923; Chester (Chet) 1908- 1970 and Mary Palmer Wagner, 1913-1985; Timothy H. Miller, 1938-1993; Rosetta “Rosie” McNees, 1928-2010.
2014 inductees included Silas Dooley Sr., 1786-1877; Dorothy Kiracofe, 1926-2005; Alfred Horatio Upham Ph. D., 1877-1945; Martha A. Rizert Dye, 1930-1999; Jo Ann Lange (1927-2010) and William E. Lange, 1925-2012.
2013 inductees include Cyrena Van Gordon, 1893-1964; Ione Sell Hiestand, 1933-2012, Lucile Petry Leone, 1902-1999; Marian M. Mitchell 1920-2010 and James W. Mitchell 1916-2012.
2012 inductees included Nathaniel Benjamin, 1795-1885; Harvey Hiestand, 1872-1944; Thomas McQuiston, 1839-1909; Clarence Oldfather, 1913-200 and Harold Sell, 1911-2003; Richard Tuggle, 1920-1976
2011 inductees included Helen J. Felton, 1918-2011 and M. Heber Felton, 1912-2001; Andrew L. Harris, 1835-1915; Seth S. Schlotterbeck, 1898-1985 and Sara Swartsel, 1914-2003.