EATON — This Sunday, June 3, during the annual Old Fashioned Independence Day Celebration at the Preble County Historial Society, three Preble Countians will honored as the newest members of the Hall of Honor.
Individuals to be honored are Bill Sewert, Irene Hardy and Larry Hart.
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 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 each entity to the residents and businesses of the county.
On Sunday, the Hall of Honor inducts its sixth membership class. Criteria for inductees chosen state inductees must be deceased and have lived in Preble County at some point in their lives; 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.
The groups will honor the 2016 inductees and their families with the dedication of plaques in their honor at 6 p.m. on Sunday, July 3, at The Amphitheater at the PCHS.
Larry A. Hart, 1941-1991
Hart is recognized for his 30-year legacy of integrity and commitment to the profession of wildlife management and law enforcement. His service set a timeless standard for all future officers. Upon his untimely death, a $500 yearly scholarship was established in his memory by the Ohio Wildlife Officers’ Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #143 and the Twin Valley Road and Gun Club. Recently the scholarship was increased to $1,000 per year. In 1992 Hart’s name was added to The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial located in Washington D.C.
Hart served in the U. S. Army from 1960 to 1964. In 1965 he was assigned to Preble County as a Wildlife-Game Protector. As a wildlife officer, Hart gave numerous programs on wildlife to many churches, organizations, and schools. He also presented weekly programs to the summer camp sessions at Woodland Trails Scout Reservation.
Hart’s community service extended well beyond his professional work. He served as Little League Assistant Coach for baseball, Cub Master and Assistant Boy Scout Leader for Pack and Troop 78 in Eaton, and President of the Eaton Band Parents. He was a member of St. Paul United Methodist Church and a member of its Finance Committee. He enjoyed bowling on the Church’s bowling team and dancing with the Fort St. Clair Square Dance Club! Hart also worked with the Preble County Soil and Water Conservation Service to help establish wetlands and prairie grasses including early planning for the wetlands restoration at The Preble County Historical Center.
Many community organizations recognized Hart’s service. He received the Law Enforcement Award from the Eaton Optimist Club, the 4-Way Test Award from the Eaton Rotary Club, and the Wildlife and Conservation Award from the St. Clair Gun Club. He also was recognized for his service from the Eaton Chapter of the Future Farmers of America and the Ohio Division of Wildlife for his contributions to hunter education.
Hart’s widow Janet resides in Mount Vernon, Ohio and sons Jeff and Chris live in Marion and Gambier, respectively, with their families.
Irene Hardy, 18841-1922
Hardy was born July 22, 1841, at New Westville, in a log cabin which still stands. She taught in one-room schools in Lanier Township, Eaton in the Old Public Church, and West Florence. She attended Antioch College during the Civil War years. She served as Principal of the Eaton Grade School in 1869.
From Ohio she traveled to Oakland, California and taught in the Oakland High School. Miss Hardy’s final teaching assignments were at Stanford University as Assistant Professor of English.
Hardy is recognized for her achievements and contributions to the education of students in public schools from 1858 to 1892. Her accomplishments are additionally noteworthy considering those were the days when women struggled for their place to advance as she did.
The following excerpt from the cover flap of An Ohio Schoolmistress: The Memoirs of Irene Hardy, edited by Louis Filler and published by The Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio, in 1980, described the life and achievements of Irene Hardy.
“A professional woman in nineteenth-century America was almost inevitable a schoolteacher, few other fields being open to the ambitious, dedicated, unmarried young lady. Indeed, she figures in many clichés of literature and legend, from the fussy and frustrated old-maid schoolmarm to the clear-eyed heroine bringing culture and grace to the frontier community.
“Irene Hardy was neither of these; she was a real person. Upon her retirement early this [20th] century she wrote her autobiography, in which she traced her forty-year teaching career from the one-room schoolhouse she presided over at the age of sixteen [in Preble County, Ohio] to her professorship at Stanford University, where she introduced creative writing as a college course. Now published for the first time, her story is a first-hand account of life inside and outside the classroom in the years between the Civil War and the end of the [19th] century.
“She was born in 1841 in rural southwestern Ohio, and the fond detail with which she recounts her childhood in the woods and fields, the interrelationships of a farm community, how things were then, tell us much about a way of life that had vanished even before she wrote about it. Moving to the county seat of Eaton at the age of ten, she gives a similarly revealing portrait of small town life in the years before the Civil War. She heard Horace Mann speak at Antioch College, and later attended this early coeducational institution, interrupting her already begun teaching career while she earned her degree. There followed a succession of schools in the countryside and small towns of Ohio and Indiana as McGuffey gave way to more ‘modern’ texts and as her ideas about education grew with her skills. A visit to California in 1871 led to a position in the Oakland High School and eventually to her post at Stanford.”
Irene Hardy practiced what she taught her students about writing. Indeed, she published poetry and articles and was noted in contemporary editions of Who’s Who in America. She wrote in the somewhat formal and voluminous style of her day, but she emphasized those things that had changed during her lifetime, to set them down before they were forgotten by later generations – childhood games, college life, look of a crossroads schoolhouse, the rewarding students and the troublemakers. The unpublished manuscript was deposited in the Antioch College archives and has now been edited for today’s readers, with an introduction and notes, by Louis Filler.
The resulting book tells us much about Midwestern life in the last [19th] century, about public education in America, and about the career of a perhaps typical professional woman of the time.
In her own words, Irene Hardy wrote: “The thirty years of my life thus far had been an apprenticeship for work that I was afterward to do in the classroom – a kind of apprenticeship in its earliest years which seems now, as I become acquainted with other persons of my profession, to have been unique. It included the log schoolhouse, before the days of the public school system; it included also the education of a pioneer home, of the field and woodland, and later of the village school, and a touch of western town life. It was continued by the training of the summer institutes for teachers, the teaching of village and district schools, and some years of college life followed by more years of teaching.”
Billy J. “Bill” Sewert, 1923-2003
Sewert can be described best as a devoted family man and a person dedicated to the betterment of his community. He was married to his wife Marjorie for 54 years and often spoke of her understanding and patience as it related to his community service. Together they received the Preble County Senior Citizens of the Year Award in 2000 for their community service. Bill was a great mentor to many individuals, none more notable than his two sons and grandson who have continued in his footsteps as dedicated community servants. (Jeff is Lewisburg Village Administrator, Bob is Lewisburg Fire and EMS Chief, and grandson Kyle is a firefighter in Brookville and Police Officer in Riverside.) Bill’s achievements and contributions in his hometown of Lewisburg and to Preble County as well earned him an impeccable reputation. His pastor the Rev. Michael Pratt at the time of Bill’s death described Bill as a beloved “humbling spirit,” meaning that he always tried to divert attention from himself.
Sewert graduated from Lewisburg Union High School following four years of playing varsity baseball and basketball. Sewert served in the U. S. Army in World War II and received the Purple Heart Medal. He continued involvement with the Lewisburg Veterans Headquarters, American Legion, VFW, and DAV. As a young man, he was employed by the Lewisburg Leader newspaper, then served in many capacities at The Register-Herald, and later was employed as a compositor at The Dayton Daily News. He returned to Lewisburg to become associated with the Kramer and Moeller Furniture Store and Funeral Home.
Sewert was the Lewisburg Fire Chief from 1957 to 1960 and attended nearly every business meeting as an honorary member for over 50 years. He helped convert the old movie theater into the present fire station, ran ambulance service before the emergency squad existed, and kept his EMT certification until 1997 “just in case” he was needed. He was a member of the Lewisburg Village Council and BPA, Chamber of Commerce, Lewisburg United Methodist Church, local Emergency Planning Commission, Lewisburg Lions Club, Tri-County North Hall of Fame Committee, and an avid Tri-County North Athletics supporter.
One of Bill’s most enjoyable and pleasurable ventures in his retirement years was his writings in The Register-Herald. Bill took great pride and showed much passion in his weekly columns about the Lewisburg community. He sought out stories about his fellow citizens and always looked for things that shed light on their accomplishments and good deeds. This column probably was his most joyous achievement. Pastor Pratt said it best when he stated that Bill understood the greatest of all God’s commandments in how he loved his neighbors. Who could write a column about Lewisburg and capture the local color, the inside look and feel, like Bill? Bill was an ambassador for the Lewisburg community. Pride and compassion drove him to do everything he could to make his beloved hometown a better place to live.
Bill’s widow Marjorie, his sons Bob and Jeff, and their families are residents of Lewisburg.
Past inductees include: William Bruce, Cornelius Van Ausdal, Sarah Elizabeth Daughtery Reynolds, Chester (Chet) and Mary Palmer Wagner, Timothy H. Miller, Rosetta “Rosie” McNees, Silas Dooley Sr., Dorothy Kiracofe, Alfred Horatio Upham Ph. D., Martha A. Rizert Dye, Jo Ann Lange and William E. Lange, Cyrena Van Gorden, Ione Sell Hiestand, Lucile Petry Leone, Marian M. Mitchell & James W. Mitchell, Nathaniel Benjamin, Harvey Hiestand, Thomas McQuiston, Clarence Oldfather and Harold Sell, Richard Tuggle, Helend and M. Heber Felton, Andrew Harris, Seth S. Schlotterbeck,
and Sara Swartsel
The deadline for submissions for consideration for 2017 is April 1, 2017.
Anyone wishing to do so can make a nomination to the Hall of Honor by visiting the Preble County Historical Society’s web site at www.preblecountyhistoricalsociety.com and downloading an application to complete and submit. You also may email the Society at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Society at 937-787-4256 and leave a message requesting a nomination form.