SCROLL DOWN THE PAGE TO FIND EACH TRIBUTE
Kitzmiller - Helen & Jack
McConagha - David Leigh
Near - James Whitney
Oldham - Paul James
Robinson - Jerry Wallace
Schenk & Merringer
Twenty-two civic-minded residents from the ‘Burg met at Graham Road School on April 30, 1975, to explore setting up an historical society in town. RTHS has grown steadily since then, and now, forty years later, maintains three buildings on its spacious Jackson Street lot.
The guiding light in those early years was an elementary school teacher, Audrey Hammond, but the light that shown the brightest for the entire forty years, the last of the twenty-two meeting attendees, so far as we know, was Helen Kitzmiller.
Helen and Jack met at the old Red Barn, a dancing establishment, which was located just south of the present-day post office, and they danced together for the next 59 years.
Helen was a joiner, having been a member of several clubs and organizations in town, but her first love was always RTHS. “I think Mom immersed herself in the Society’s work to make up for the sadness she felt at my leaving,” Jack and Helen’s daughter Cindy recalls. “I was a military wife and left for Germany just as the Society was born.”
And immerse she did, from the beginning, and it never wavered. Helen was the principal fundraiser for our organization, from the time the museum was atop Connell Hardware, until we moved into our own quarters on Jackson. One of her earliest triumphs was to get a $10,000 donation from the president of Nationwide Insurance. It was hard to turn down Helen. When the Center was being moved and then renovated in the mid ‘90’s, and we needed a sink or a support beam, for example, it was Helen who knew where to get one—for free. Her motto was “Ask and you shall receive,” borrowing a verse from the Bible, another love of her life.
Helen never drove, but she was a go-getter and covered a lot of ground. She organized soirees, flea markets, raffles, parties of every kind, and occasionally, when we needed a little extra, passed around her pink piggy bank, coaxing everyone to shake out the change in their pockets. Helen was a fundraiser like no other. She even parlayed her interest in aprons for the treasury. She became known as the “Apron Lady,” and gave talks around central Ohio, always returning whatever gratuities she earned to the Society. Once she proposed that we contact a number of famous people to see if they would donate a personal belonging that we could auction. And, the centerpiece would be a bow tie from Gordon Gee! It never entered her mind that she would not get that tie from the OSU President.
Helen was one of our last phone committee members. If we didn’t have enough volunteers to work on a project, she would get on the phone with her RTHS directory in hand, seeking helpers. When the Board wanted to pave the parking lot, for instance, and quoted a price, Helen spoke up, “Why don’t we hold off on that. I bet if I call around I can get a better deal.”
She and Jack were always present at Board meetings, and she did not sit quietly. Once, when it was time to nominate a new slate of officers, I, as many others in the room, looked down when asked if we would serve. All eyes eventually swung over to Helen, and she exclaimed, in her gentle but firm voice, “Well, I guess there’s no one else who is willing to run, so I’ll be an officer yet again, but I think it’s about time the younger members stepped up.” That’s what needed to be said, and the next year, others did step up, including this author, who was startled into action.
Helen cared. It’s as simple as that. She cared that the Society prosper and be a good steward for the hundreds of items entrusted to it. She felt that the community should know about our work and that we, in return, should give back.
As one looks over archived newspaper clippings from the past forty years, one sees Helen’s face, more than any other. We still find notes from Helen attached to objects in our collection, such as: “How can we use this?” “Needs to be catalogued,” “Send a thank you note for this.”
She was our ambassador, ready to hand out a RTHS card to anyone she met. This paid off handsomely, for example, when several years ago, the Society was sent a truckload of valuable historical items from the estate of an out-of-towner. Everyone wondered how we were so lucky, since we did not know the deceased. A family member happened to mention that her mother had met Helen just one time, received a card, and was so impressed, that she wanted her things to go to RTHS.
Memories of Helen are plentiful - saying grace before our big meals, sitting by the table at the pig roast, selling the ice cream she arranged for Culvers to donate, standing by the jewelry tree, which she made, attending the Christmas dinners, hoping someone would top the highest bid, moving up and down the card party tables, arranging silent auction items and door prizes, placing canned goods carefully into boxes as part of our annual “April Showers for Helping Hands” Open House, which she started, and handing out “goodie bags” full of advertising products that she had collected to our guests: funeral home mints, bank pencils, pens and notepads, hotel shampoo and soap samples, and various other promotions from area businesses. She filled whole closets with these handy items that didn’t cost a cent.
Just as 2015 will be remembered as the 40th Anniversary of RTHS, 2014 will be remembered as the year we lost both Jack, in mid-September, (see the November Courier,) and then Helen, at the end of November. Their lives are gone, but they leave so many traces behind.
I recently read that David (Dave) McConagha passed away in Maryland. He was one of Reynoldsburg’s proud U.S. Naval veterans. Dave was born in Columbus to Ralph and Martha McConagha. He graduated from RHS in 1959 where he played on the varsity basketball team. Dave was the class secretary and voted “Most Studious” his senior year. Dave’s Reynolian caption read: “He’s smart as a whip, yet not a square, when you want him to help he’s always there, ambition is to be successful, basketball, favorite celebrity is Yogi Bear, 5 or 6 year-old Chryslers, Honor Society.”
In the “Letter from the Future, May 30, 1969”, a yearbook feature where a classmate wrote a fantasy letter from 10 years in the future, Judy Molnar wrote this about Dave: “At the reunion dinner table we began to talk about the lead Russia has in their space travel research. Dave McConagha was the principal speaker, for he is quite an expert on that subject. He is working at Cape Canaveral as an engineer. At the present time he is working on the intercontinental ballistic missile. We all agreed that with Dave on the job, Russia’s going to have a tough fight to stay ahead.”
Dave married Jeanette Elena Myers (RHS 1960) in August, 1962 while he was working a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from The Ohio State University. Dave attended Muskingham College before he transferred to OSU. Jeanette was a varsity cheerleader at RHS. The caption in the 1960 Reynolian for Jeannette read: “Where she gets her energy, no one knows, she’s an expert at dropping pianos on toes, ambition to be an OSU cheerleader, shrimp cocktail, water skiing, 9,999.”
In a fictitious paper called “The Future Times” section of the yearbook dated October 30, 1980 which foretold where the RHS class of 1960 would be in 20 years at a 1980 homecoming. Jeannette’s “future” was written as: “The festivities began when Miss Jeannette Myers of the Metropolitan Opera sang the Star-Spangled Banner.” In Jeannette’s “Last Will and Testament of the Class of 1960” Jeannette wrote: “I, Jeannette Myers, bequeath my ability to move pianos to anyone who’s foolish enough to try.” Jeannette went on to become a nurse and has sung with an International award winning Sweet Adelines chorus for many years.
Dave and Jeannette had four children: Heather (McConagha) MacNaughton (husband, Deacon), Pat McConagha (wife, Kay), Deidre (McConagha) Austen (husband, Ed), and Marty McConagha (wife, Shannon). They also have eight grandchildren. Dave was the brother of Linda Kelly (husband, Lew), Nancy Tishkoff (husband, Stuart) and Susan Donaldson (husband, Lynn).
According to Dave’s obituary: “In 1964, David embarked on a 27-year naval career with more than 25 years of flight experience with the A-3B and EA-6B aircraft. His career included teaching mathematics at the U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory School at the Naval Training Center in Bainbridge and flight training in Pensacola, FL and NAS Whidbey in Washington State. As a young navigator, David flew photographic reconnaissance and combat missions with VAP 61 in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969. David later served as a Naval ROTC instructor at Dartmouth College while earning a Master’s degree in Operations Research/Systems Analysis. David’s career continued with stations at NAS Norfolk with the electronic warfare squadron VAQ 138 and commanding officer of VAQ 132. His squadron’s deployments included tours on the aircraft carriers Saratoga and Dwight D. Eisenhower. During his tenure at NAS Whidbey, David attended and graduated from the Naval War College in Newport, RI.
“In 1983, David was transferred to the Pentagon where he held successive positions in the offices of the Chief of Naval Operations and the Director for Operations, Joint Staff. David was directly involved with policy, requirements, and operational control of U.S. military forces. Upon retirement from the Navy in 1991, David continued to serve our country as the Director, Office of Weapons Surety, for the U.S. Department of Energy. His responsibilities included nuclear weapons safety, security, and coordination with the Department of Defense. In the international arena, David contributed to both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization nuclear weapons safety and security programs, and cooperative surety efforts with the United Kingdom. He traveled frequently to the republics of the former Soviet Union to assist in the safe, secure dismantlement of their nuclear weapons. David retired from the Department of Energy in 1997.
“David was a member of the VFW Fleet Reserve Association, Military Officers Association, and a lifetime member of the Vietnam Veterans of America. Along with other commendations, he was awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal (with gold star), multiple Navy Air Medals and Strike/Flight Awards, Navy Unit Commendation (with one bronze star), Navy Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Service Medal (with one silver star), Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (with one bronze star), Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation (with one bronze star), and the Meritorious Service Medal.
“David served several tenures as Senior Warden at Grace Episcopal Church in Brunswick, MD. In retirement, David became an active member of the American Legion, Post 166 in Ocean City, MD. David was a long-time member of the Barbershop Harmony Society, and was recognized as Barbershopper-of-the-Year when singing with the Catoctones in Frederick, MD. He later spent countless happy hours rehearsing and performing with The Chorus of the Chesapeake and singing baritone in several quartets. David’s retirement afforded him time to boat on the Susquehanna River, volunteer at the USNTC Museum in Bainbridge, MD, and visit Ireland to explore first-hand the genealogy he had spent so much time researching. David also was an avid attendee at sports and school events for his grandchildren. Some of David’s favorite days were filled with Ocean City trips in his convertible, listening to Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline, with his dog, Eli, by his side.
“A service was held at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 303 N. Main Street, Bel Air, MD on March 30, 2019.’ “
It seems like the class futures in the Reynolians of both Dave and Jeannette were pretty accurate. Jeannette continues to sing and Dave did have something to do with Russia and security. Sometimes our former classmates make predictions we never would imagine to come true.
It was the hotspot of the east side, the Burger Boy Mainliner, and during the 50’s, this drive-in attracted hot rods with loud mufflers from all the surrounding communities, including Reynoldsburg.
Located in Berwick, just west of Route 33 (College Avenue), on the south side of Livingston Avenue, this teenage hang-out had “car hops” who hustled food and drinks on trays, which they clamped to the driver’s side of cars surrounding the restaurant. But you didn’t have to eat there; you could simply park and watch the other cars, or cruise around the lot yourself. On Saturday nights, after the movies let out, WCOL’s “Dr. Bop,” with his “stack of sh-lac,” broadcast live from the place. It got so hectic that off-duty police were hired to control traffic.
As one of the regulars put it, “This drive-in should be a historical landmark for Columbus. No drugs or alcohol were ever used or noticed; none were ever needed, and still a good time was had by all. The atmosphere of the Burger Boy Mainliner was all the ‘high’ any of us needed. It was just good clean fun and a great time to remember.”
Jim Near, from the far east end of Reynoldsburg, where the Fire Academy is now located, didn’t partake of the fun outside the Burger Boy. He was too busy inside washing dishes or filling in as a short-order cook. He could crack two eggs with one hand. Since the age of 15, he would walk to Livingston from the high school on Jackson Street or from his home, and hitchhike the seven miles to learn the business of flippin’ burgers.
Even in his yearbook, the 1956 ‘Reynolian’, one can see that the business was on his mind. Several mentions of “burgers” can be found in his class will and under his senior picture, where his “pet peeve” was listed as “dumb car hops,” an early testament to his keen interest in customer satisfaction.
After graduation, Jim became night manager at Burger Boy. He then went on to Hanover College in Indiana. According to his good friend Tom Rausch (RHS ’54), an upperclassman at Hanover, “Jim turned our Sigma Chi kitchen from a money loser with bad food to maybe the best place on campus to eat, and we made money on it!”
Jim graduated from Hanover in 1960, and after a short stint in the Ohio National Guard, he started working at the first McDonald’s in Columbus, on South High Street, where he eventually became the manager. When Roy Tuggle, his former boss at Burger Boy, co-founded BBF (Burger Boy Food-o-Rama), home of the whirling satellite, he invited Jim to become a manager and then vice-president of the new chain. To those early entrepreneurs, BBF stood for “Bigger, Better, Faster” as they strove to stave off the juggernaut that was McDonald's. Borden soon bought out BBF, however, and Jim was named President of Borden Retail Operations.
When his contract with Borden expired, Jim lent his expertise to Dave Thomas, Tuggle, and a couple of other big-time investors who had founded Wendy’s Hamburgers. Perhaps remembering that in his yearbook, he had listed one of his life goals as “owning my own drive-in.” He became a Wendy’s franchise owner, and by the end of the 1970s, he had opened over 39 Wendy’s restaurants in West Virginia and Florida.
After he sold all 39 back to Wendy’s, he became a rich man and retired early. Tom recalls, “Jim was never ostentatious about anything; you would never know he was wealthy.” But he grew tired of retirement, and was soon developing a spicy chicken sandwich, anticipating by decades the “hot and spicy” craze, and to house it, he built a new restaurant - Sisters Chicken and Biscuits, and it was wildly successful.
Scarcely a year later, Wendy’s bought Near’s concept and the Sisters restaurant for a cool million dollars, and soon opened 70 more units.
In 1982, Dave Thomas turned over the day-to-day operation of Wendy’s to a professional management group, which, in Thomas’ own words, “caused us to lose our focus,” and the business went downhill.
Four years later Thomas had had enough, and called back his old friend to lead the turnaround. Jim agreed to do it only if Thomas would return as spokesman for the company, appear in home-spun commercials, and visit with employees to bolster morale. And the rest is history.
Near became President and Chief Operating Officer and later CEO and Chairman of Wendy’s International. As Tom recalls, “I never heard a bad word about him from anyone, but he could move decisively.” Near replaced four top managers and instituted a stock ownership program for employees. He introduced value-priced menu items and specialty sandwiches and streamlined the business with computers. As a result, Wendy’s showed a five-year average earnings-per-share growth of 58% ... over four times that of McDonald’s! Management turnover dropped from 55% to 20%. Near was named “Operator of the Year” by ‘Nation’s Restaurant News’ and won the Silver Plate Award from the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association, among numerous other top honors.
In 1995, after 21 years with Wendy’s, Near turned over most of his duties to Gordon Teter and retired for good to Bonita Springs, Florida. The next year, on July 22nd, while attending the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Jim Near died of a heart attack in a hotel lobby at age 58. He left his wife, Nancy, and two sons, David and Jason.
Upon his death, there was no greater accolade than this, and it came from the Senior Chairman himself, R. David Thomas: “Jim was a great man and my best friend. He knew more about restaurant operations than anyone else I know. He loved the hustle and bustle of a busy restaurant, and his passion for the customers and employees was evident to everyone who met him. That will be his legacy. I’ll miss him dearly.”
Drive along the 2100 block of East Livingston now, in South Bexley, and you’ll find a tangle of signs, pedestrians, and vehicles near the I-70 interchange, which loops toward downtown Columbus. Look closely, and you’ll see Jim Near’s legacy. His original Sisters Chicken and Biscuits building, now Popeye’s Chicken, is still standing, and right next door, on what was once the site of the Burger Boy Mainliner, is another restaurant. It is a Wendy’s!
Sources: Wendy’s press release July 23, 1996, Forbes Magazine January 3, 1994,columbusrestauranthistory.com, 1956 Reynolian,
with special thanks to Tom Rausch.
James Whitney Near 1938-1996
American restaurant entrepreneur. Born to James Donald and Helen (German) Near in Columbus, Ohio, he started his restaurant career as a 15-year-old cook for a local Burger Boy Restaurant. He continued to work for Burger Boy throughout his high school and college years and late became vice president of the chain after graduating from Hanover College in Indiana. When Borden Inc. acquired Burger Boy in 1969, he became president of Borden's retail sales division. In 1974, he left Borden to become a Wendy's franchisee and developed 39 restaurants in four years in Florida and West Virginia. After selling those restaurants to Wendy's, he started the Sisters Chicken & Biscuits restaurant chain, which he sold to Wendy's in 1981. He then served as president and chief operating officer of Sisters International Inc. until 1986, when he became president and chief operating officer of Wendy's, and later became CEO in 1989 and chairman in 1991.
During his tenure as Wendy's president, he turned the struggling chain around. He focused on the core hamburgers, chicken, and salads, reshuffled its offerings, and introduced value item menus and specialty sandwiches. He also focused on store-level operations, beefing up training and operational structure while cutting costs at headquarters. For his accomplishments, he was voted MUSFO Operator of the Year in 1992. He ran day-to-day operations of Wendy's until 1995, but maintaining his chairman title. He divided his final years between homes in Columbus, Ohio and Bonita Springs, Florida, with no history of health problems. On July 22, 1996, while staying in Atlanta's Downtown Hilton Hotel to attend the Olympic Games, he suddenly complained of chest pains in the morning and collapsed while walking to a first aid station. He was taken to Crawford Long Hospital of Emory University, where he was pronounced dead at 11:25 am.
Wendy's founder Dave Thomas, whom Near had encouraged to become the company's advertising spokesperson, said, "He was a great man and my best friend. He knew more about restaurants than anyone else I know. He loved the hustle and bustle of a busy restaurant, and his passion for the customers and employees was evident to everyone who met him. That will be his legacy. I'll miss him dearly."
Gordon F. Teter, who succeeded Near as CEO, chief operating officer, and president, said, "Jim has been an outstanding leader at Wendy's and throughout the industry. His passion for restaurant operations and taking care of every customer were the driving force behind Wendy's remarkable success over the past decade. He taught all of us how to be better operators."
The Oldham family are among some of the first settlers in Reynoldsburg and Truro Township. Paul and Tammi are respected Lifetime Members of the Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society. Paul’s parents are also members of RTHS and we want to offer our deepest condolences to the entire family. – Mary Turner Stoots, President, RTHS
Paul James Oldham, age 46, of Pickerington, passed away Friday April 17, 2020. He was born in Columbus and was a longtime resident of Pickerington. He was the Vice-President of the Violet Meadows Homeowners Association and a volunteer with the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office Community Watch Program. Paul loved to travel, boating and most of all spending time with his family. He worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over 22 years, most recently managing his own team in Columbus.
Paul was preceded in death by his father Paul M. Oldham and two sisters. He is survived by the love of his life, his wife of 23+ years Tammi; sons Andrew (Payton) Oldham and Brady Oldham; parents Erik and Ina Turner; mother and father-in-law Richard and Deborah Fetty; sisters Eva (Brian) Simpson and Anne (Travis) Shreffler; brother Owen (Brooke) Turner; brother-in-law Clint (Kristie) Fetty; seventeen nieces and nephews: Bethany, James, Jude, Quinn, Lucy, Olivia, Eli, Alise, Isabel, Emma, Umi, Tyson, Colton, Molly, Weston and Kason; numerous family and friends.
Paul’s family received friends Saturday May 2, 2020 at Cotner Funeral Home 7369 East Main Street, Reynoldsburg. His funeral service was held privately for family members only on Sunday, May 3, 2020.
Jerry Wallace Robinson was born in Chapmanville, West Virginia on June 18, 1938 and died on October 10, 2019. Jerry Robinson was a loving parent, husband, grandparent, friend, coach and teacher whose sense of humor, wit and intelligence will be greatly missed. He was preceded in death by his parents Lucille (Barker) and Ted Robinson.
Jerry graduated from Chapmanville High School in 1955, played football and was a member of the state championship golf team. His siblings Dick (Sylvia) and Keith (Gloria) preceded Jerry in death but he is survived by his brother Bill. Jerry graduated from Marshall University with his AB in Education and later earned a Masters Degree. He married Ann Treacy Robinson in 1964 in Huntington, West Virginia. They had two children David (Julie) and Treacy (Jim) Cox and three grandchildren: Maria and Jamie Cox and Hugh Robinson.
Jerry taught social studies at Chapmanville High School and Lake Weir, Florida but spent most of his professional career at Reynoldsburg High School where he taught various social studies classes from 1964-1986 and was the Athletic Director from 1986-1998. Jerry’s lifetime personal passion was golf which he learned as a caddy growing up, played at Marshall University, and coached at Reynoldsburg High School from 1964-2002 winning 2 Ohio Capital Conference championships and leading six individuals and one team to the Ohio State High School Championship Tournament. He was named to the Reynoldsburg Sports Hall of Fame, Reynoldsburg Coach of the Year and Ohio High School Golf Coach’s Hall of Fame.
Many thanks for all the caring help given to Jerry and his family by the Ohio Health Hospice, his wonderful aides, nurses and doctors, and family and friends who provided him with so much support these last two years. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Ohio Health Hospice or the Jason Murphy Memorial Scholarship Fund. As Jerry requested there will be no funeral services.
Kids growing up in the Burg often played in Blacklick Creek or French Run Creek. We waded there in the summer, skated in winter, and caught sunfish, minnows and crawdads whenever we could. No one particularly worried about us hanging around the creek. It was what kids did. We never thought about anyone drowning.
Both creeks often flooded and many basements on Lancaster Avenue were full of water. We knew the threat of rushing waters and tried to stay away from the creeks during high water events.
I grew up on Lancaster Avenue. On June 22, 1956, a flood from French Run and Blacklick Creeks rose and collapsed our basement wall and washed the sod from Budd Oldham’s front yard. I rode in a rowboat up to my grandparents’ house at 1221 Lancaster Avenue as our house filled with water. The event instilled a healthy respect for rushing water and what disasters could happen even on peaceful Blacklick Creek. Ironically, a tragedy would occur in 1969 that caused death to visit someone at 1247 Lancaster.
On June 23, 1969 Blacklick Creek claimed the lives of two men who were intent on saving three little boys who were caught in the rapidly flowing waters.
Reporter Joe Gillette of the Columbus Citizen-Journal wrote:
“A Little League baseball coach and a helpful neighbor drowned Monday night in rain-swollen Blacklick Creek in Reynoldsburg moments after saving the life of a 10-year-old boy who had fallen in the creek.
“The victims were identified as William (Bo) Joseph Merringer, 1247 Lancaster Avenue and Harold G. Schenk, 39, of 6564 Red Fox Road. Both were pronounced dead at the scene after being pulled from the water by other rescuers and the Reynoldsburg Fire Department.
“A third man, who also helped rescue the boy, was pulled unconscious from the water and revived. He was identified as David T. White, Sr., 45, of 1554 Marvin Avenue and reported in satisfactory condition at Lincoln Memorial Hospital.
“The rescued youth was Eric Ashton, 10, of 1631 Lucks Road. The incident occurred about 600 yards behind the Reynoldsburg Municipal Building at 7232 East Main Street and adjacent to a Little League baseball field.
“Young Ashton told police he was walking along the west side of the creek with three other youths when one of the boys pushed him into the water.
“Merringer, whose home borders the east side of the creek, ran to the rescue after hearing the boys’ cries for help.
“Schenk and White, whose Little League team was playing in the nearby field, joined the scene moments later and saw the two struggling in the water.
“They too went into the water and the three men somehow got the boy to shore before being pulled under water by the strong undertow.
“An eyewitness, Tim Pfautsch, 17, of 7099 Ellen Ct., a worker for the Reynoldsburg Recreation Department, said he heard women and children screaming and ran to the rescue.
“ ‘I started to walk across the dam along the upper edge. About a third of the way across, I fell in and an unidentified man pulled me to the side and saved my life.’ “
On the front page of the June 24, 1969, edition of the Little Weekly more information appeared:
“… According to Reynoldsburg Police, three Thompson boys, Donald and Ronald age 11 and David, age 9 of 1029 Pleasant Drive, and Eric Ashton, 10, of 1631 Lucks Road, had gone to Blacklick Creek above the dam with the intention of going wading. David slipped and pushed Eric into the water, the other boys joined him in the water and all four began wading downstream toward the dam where Eric and Ronald both slipped and got into trouble.
“Donald’s call for help was answered by Mr. Merringer who entered the water and picked up Donald and threw him to the bank so he could get out.
“Donald pulled Ronald out by the hand, and then got a stick for Eric to grasp and pulled him free of the water.
“During that time Merringer had become trapped in the dam’s undercurrent and Mr. Schenk entered the water to assist him.
Both men were unable to free themselves from the undercurrent.
“Dan Hitchings, 29, 1800 Steckel Road, and Tim Pfautsch, 17, 7099 Ellen Court both entered the water to assist the men. But Pfautsch got into trouble and was pulled to safety and Hitchings could not get to the men.
“David White, Sr., 1554 Marvin Drive, also attempted to help the men but was caught in the undercurrent. The current finally released Merringer, Schenk and White and they began to float downstream.
“Hitchings, Pfautsch, the Truro Township Emergency Squad, and other bystanders pulled the three to shore, but only White responded to first aid. Merringer and Schenk were both pronounced dead at the scene by John P. King, M.D.
“The bodies of both victims were taken to Rutherford Funeral Home. Merringer is survived by his wife, Mary Margaret; a daughter, Judith, 5; two sons, Joseph 10 and David, 2; his parents Mr. and Mrs. James Merringer of 1216 Lancaster Avenue; four sisters and two brothers. Schenk is survived by his wife, Patricia; two sons, Steve and John; and two daughters, Joan and Judy.”
The Columbus Dispatch ran an article entitled Dead Man’s Brother Prevented 3rd Death:
“Cool-headed first aid by one drowning victim’s younger brother may have kept Monday’s double drowning from becoming a triple tragedy.
“Witnesses said while William (Bo) Merringer, 29, lay dead on one side of the creek, his brother, John, 24, was administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to David White, 45, on the other side.
“White, the only one of three rescuers to survive a plunge into the creek, remained in good condition Wednesday at Lincoln Memorial Hospital“ ‘There is no question in my mind,’ said funeral owner, Pete Rutherford, ‘that White would never have made it if it weren’t for Johnny.’
“The younger Merringer, a Reynoldsburg volunteer fireman, was one of the first on the drowning scene north of the city’s municipal building.
“Rutherford said Merringer began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on White as soon as he was dragged unconscious from the creek.
“ ‘He called across the creek as he was working and asked how his brother was,’ Rutherford said. ‘What could they do, but tell him he was all right?’
“Not until Rutherford had taken White to the hospital in the funeral home’s ambulance did John learn his brother was dead.
“Harold G. Schenk, 39, also drowned in the successful effort to save a 10-year-old boy who fell or was pushed into the creek while playing along the bank.
“Truro Township trustees and Reynoldsburg Jaycees are reportedly considering a special lifesaving award for John.
“But John, who lives with his wife and two children at 1155 Gibson Drive, Reynoldsburg, first must attend another ceremony – his brother’s funeral at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Pius Church.
“The service for Schenk will be at 10 a.m. Thursday in the Rutherford Funeral Home, 7369 East Main Street.”
According to John Merringer, Bo’s brother:
“While we were driving on French Run Drive, a fire alarm sounded for a squad run. I pulled over at the footbridge by the firehouse. Mary, my wife, says not to go. We have the kids in the car. The fire alarm goes off again for a fire run. I tell Mary to take the kids to her mom’s and I’ll come and get them.
“Chief John Knight meets Larry Blake, Jim West, and myself at the squad. He says that kids are in trouble in the creek behind the Merringers' on Lancaster Avenue We reach the scene and get out. Larry has the rope. Jim and Larry head down and I get the resuscitator. When reaching the dam, Larry was starting to tie the rope around his waist. I grabbed it telling him that I know he can’t swim. He gives me the rope.
I start to tie off, but I see Dave White go under at the dam and I know where he’s going to come up. So, I jump in that area and I was right, he was right next to me. With one pull, I pulled him from the current or back tow. I pulled him up to me and started CPR right in the middle of the creek. Then I dragged him to the far bank, toward the ball fields, where Pete Rutherford met me. He thought Dave was gone, but I said no, he isn’t while I continued CPR. His pupils started to react. Pete said they needed me on the other side, I saw someone fifteen feet from there, but several people were working on him (Bo). I went back across the creek where Mr. Harold G. Schenk was located with people helping him. They gave me a change on CPR for him, but we couldn’t save him.
“On a personal note, Pete Rutherford told me that on the way to Lincoln Memorial Hospital down Livingston Avenue every time he hit a bump in the road, Dave would spit out water. So, when Pete saw a bump he hit it. I wanted everyone to know about this great man and about the good friends of Truro Township Fire Department.
“Heroes of June 23, 1969: Larry Blake, Jim West, John Knight, Pete Rutherford, Dan Hitchings, Tim Pfautsch, and Dave White. (Dan and Tim had to be the ones who pulled Bo and Harold out of the water.)
“The words of Jesus Christ: ‘This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.’
“God Bless – John C. Merringer”
The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission awarded five medals for the actions that day: Dave White, Dan Hitchings, and Tim Pfautsch were each recognized for their heroism. William Merringer and Harold Schenk were awarded for their bravery posthumously:
“William J. Merringer saved Donald G. Thompson, and died attempting to save Ronald D. Thompson and Eric T. Ashton respectively, from drowning, Reynoldsburg, Ohio, June 23, 1969. Donald, 11, Ronald, 11, and Eric, 10, called for help from turbulent water below a dam in a creek. Merringer, 29, plasterer, ran to the creek, entered the deep water, and swam to Donald, who was nearest the bank. After towing Donald to safety, Merringer started toward Ronald and Eric, who were farther from the bank. He became caught in a reverse current and began spinning head over heels. Donald ran downstream to shallow water and waded to the opposite bank, where a pile of cement debris extended into the creek. Ronald and Eric managed to move to near the debris; and Donald aided them from the water. Merringer later was thrown free of the reverse current and, inert, floated into shallow water. Others removed him, but he could not be revived.
“Harold G. Schenk died attempting to save William J. Merringer from drowning, Reynoldsburg, Ohio, June 23, 1969. Merringer, 29, plasterer, who had entered turbulent water below a dam in a creek to aid three boys, became caught in a reverse current and began spinning head over heels in the deep water. Schenk, 39, mechanical engineer, entered the creek from the opposite bank, swam to near Merringer, and attempted to grasp him. He was unable to do so because of the somersaulting of Merringer's body. Schenk then also became caught in the reverse current and was spun head over heels. Both Merringer and Schenk later were thrown free of the turbulence and, inert, floated into shallow water. Others removed them, but they could not be revived.”
Another article, source unidentified, was titled “Greater Love Hath No Man”:
“Two Reynoldsburg men made the supreme sacrifice Monday evening that others might live. Both victims undoubtedly knew they were in danger when they decided to help but they didn’t question, they acted. Of such stuff heroes are made. The community as a whole joins in offering condolence to the families of the two. Their grief is great. But they may find some solace in the knowledge that William Merringer and Harold Schenk acted from their deepest feelings. Their sacrifice is proof of the basic goodness of man.”
On June 23, 1969, two families in Reynoldsburg experienced a life-changing event. Harold Schenk and Bo Merringer were both family men whose decision to save several children in peril reflected their selfless love of others.
On June 23, 2019, the families and friends of Harold Schenk and Bo Merringer gathered at JFK Park in the gazebo to celebrate the lives of these two heroes.