EATON — Four new names were added to the Sara Swartsel Hall of Honor during the Old-Fashioned Independence Day Celebration at the Preble County Historical Society (PCHS) on Sunday, July 7.
In addition to the ceremony, there were activities, food, a beer tent, entertainment, and fireworks to be enjoyed at the festival.
During the festival, PCHS’s buildings were open and families activities were held. There was face painting, a dunk tank, the Ohio Army National Guard obstacle course, timeline reenactors (Civil War to World War II), bounce houses, mini golf, mobile zip line, a trackless train, and craft and food vendors.
Following the Hall of Honor inductions, there was even music by Flat Out and Adelee & Gentry.
According to PCHS Executive Director Misti Spillman, the group decided to change the annual event this year by adding more activities for the family.
“[Old-Fashioned Independence Day Celebration] has steadily grown over the years. Every year I’ve been here, as long as the weather is good, it has been great. We probably had 4,000 people last year, so it has been a great turn out,” she said. “We hope for a turnout of about the same, if not better, because we did things different this year so we are hoping for a good crowd.
“This event is important because it gets our name out to the community. A lot of local people don’t know what we do, or other events we have, but it is also good to get people from outside the community to come in. We thank all of our sponsors, because they’re the ones who made this possible, we also want to thank the community for coming out.”
The Hall of Honor Induction is a collaboration between PCHS and The Register-Herald, originally created in 2011 in celebration of PCHS’s 40th anniversary. Inductees into the Hall of Honor 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, sports, or have a reputation that brings honor to the county; or personal commitment and service to the county; or have a lasting impact on the county.
The first 2019 inductee was William R. Goodheart Jr., whom first came to Preble County to visit his friend. He liked the rural life so much, he moved to a farm in the county and began his life on contributions to the community. In addition to running his Preble County farm, he also 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 returned to the music and media business to become executive vice president and general manager of Official Films Inc. Entertainment was a part of Goodheart’s early life as well, as he helped found Music Corporation of America (MCA) in 1924. During his long entertainment career, Goodheart impacted many and played a major role in creating many of the hits of radio’s golden age in the 1930s.
In 1958, Goodheart sold his farms in Preble County and retired to Phoenix, Arizona. He is survived by his daughter Margaret “Peggy” Madden and his son William R. Goodheart III.
The next inductee was Kenneth J. Garber, whose principal contribution to Preble County was 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.
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.
Garber is survived by numerous nieces and nephews including Barbara Shyrich, Sarah Olwin, and cousin Brenda Mezz.
The last two inductees were Paul E. Fitzwater and Ruth Phelps Fitzwater. This couple impacted many cities throughout Ohio, where they were music educators. In 2001, Paul Fitzwater was inducted into Sidney Public Schools Hall of Honor. Together, the Fitzwater’s established an eight piece professional dance band known as “The Keynotes” and played throughout West-Central Ohio in the 1950s and 1960s.
When they retired to Preble County, Paul Fitzwater became lay leader of the Ware’s Chapel United Methodist Church and continued his membership in Rotary, leading the singing as he had for ever Rotary club where he was a member. In 1993, he was named a Paul Harris Fellow from the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. He served as the director of the PCHS for a short time and was the first director of the Preble County Bureau of Support. He was also active in the Preble County Farm Bureau.
Ruth Fitzwater’s greatest contribution to Preble County was at Ware’s Chapel United Methodist Church. She played piano twice a month, directed the choirs, and was greatly involved in United Methodist Women. She received Special Mission Recognition by United Methodist Women in November 1998.
Paul and Ruth Fitzwater had four children: Jane Fitzwater Parke, Julie Fitzwater Preuninger, Jean Fitzwater Bussell, and John Phelps Fitzwater.
Nominations for the 2020 Hall of Honor are due no later than April 1, 2020. Nominations forms will be available on PCHS’s website soon, or at its office.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH