The names will continue in order to the next Tribute page (Tributes #3)
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Graham - W. Fred, Ph.D.
Hill - Maryalys Karnes
Kibbey - William L.
Kitzmiller - Helen & Jack
McConagha - David Leigh
Near - James Whitney
William Fred Graham (1930-2021) was a retired Professor, a minister, an author, speaker, teacher, a husband, father, and all-around good man. He was one to be respected in every way. Fred was born in Columbus, Ohio, 31 October 1930, son of W. Fred ''Ted” and Serena (Clark) Graham. He graduated from Reynoldsburg High School in 1948, where he was very active in sports. He was a lifelong baseball fan. Fred went to Tarkio College in Missouri, earning his AB in 1952, then to the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary for his bachelor’s degree in 1955. He received a Master of Theology degree from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary in 1958 and earned Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Iowa in 1965.
An ordained minister, he served churches in Iowa, and on an interim basis in Michigan. He was a member of Lake Michigan Presbyterian (Presbyterian Church, USA) and sang in the choir at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in East Lansing, where his ashes will be interred in the church gardens.
In 1953, he married Jean Garrett of Braddyville, Iowa, who was his companion in ministry and during his 30 years on the faculty at Michigan State University. In addition to his Jean, he is survived by four daughters: Terese ''Terry” of East Lansing, Bonny of Champaign, Illinois, Marcy (Doug) of Kirksville, Missouri, and Geneva ''Genny'' (Chris) of Vienna, Virginia. Also surviving are six grandchildren and one great granddaughter: Marcy, Reese, and Peter Havlatka, Will Murphy, and Benjamin and Samuel Looker, and Reese's daughter April. Two sisters also survive him: Grace Tanner of Columbus, Ohio, and Lucia Sims of Lawrence, Kansas.
Much of his work as a scholar was in 16th and 17th century history. He wrote books on John Calvin, on the Reformation in Scotland, as well as the sociology of religion. Locally, he was president of the Michigan State University chapter of the Honors Society Phi Kappa Phi. In retirement he served as president of the Michigan State University Retirees Association. In a lighter vein, he wrote occasional pieces on running and religion, on church growth and decline, on ecumenical issues, and doggerel from the family Christmas cards.
His accomplishments include Emeritus Professor at Michigan State University in East Lansing (Instructor, 1963-64; Assistant Professor, 1964-69; Associate Professor, 1969-73; Professor, 1973-92). Fred was an ordained Presbyterian Minister; Pastor, Bethel United Presbyterian Church, Waterloo, Iowa, 1955-61. President, Sixteenth-Century Studies Society, 1988-89. His publications include The Constructive Revolutionary: John Calvin and His Socio-Economic Impact, 1971; Picking Up the Pieces: A Christian Stance in a Godless Age, 1975; (editor) Later Calvinism: International Perspectives, 1994. William Fred Graham has been listed as a noteworthy Religious studies educator by Marquis Who's Who.Fred earned a Grantee Travel to Collections Grant National Endowment for the Humanities, Scotland, 1985, Finance Grant American Philosophical Society, Scotland, 1987. And he was president (1987, 1991) of the Calvin Studies Society, American Society for Church History, Phi Kappa Phi.
He will be remembered as a kind man who tried to blend humor and faith in whatever he did, whether playing a game, running, singing, or teaching. He enjoyed playing golf, tennis, and softball with his friends, but was not avid at his games. He believed that nature betrayed, but did not parade, its creation and sustenance by God, and that the same God spoke to him and called him to ministry by Jesus of Nazareth.
His family is peaceful in the knowledge that he will be playing baseball with his youthful body in the hereafter on God's team.
June 13, 2021
Mary Turner Stoots ~ president, Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society
Grace Tanner sent me an email today that broke my heart. Another member of the historical society has passed away. When I first took office, Fred and I spoke a couple of times. He tolerated my questions with patience and kindness. I found out that he was a Dr. of Theology and Presbyterian minister. Most importantly, he was raised in my church, and maybe he could explain the difference between a First Presbyterian and a United Presbyterian. I never understood as a kid why we had two Presbyterian churches a block apart in this small town. Am I the only one that wondered about that?
I never got the chance to meet him, but I will miss him, and his bantering emails with Ray Karnes and Grace Tanner.
His picture is from the 1948 Reynoldsburg High School Yearbook. Under the “Campus Leaders” section, there’s a cartoon of Fred as a bookworm. He was on the Editorial Staff for the Reynolian; on the Franklin County Honor Society; Varsity R, Varsity Basketball, Baseball, and Track.
By his picture it says, “An athlete and a mighty one, who plays the game until it’s won.” Absent-minded professor in the Senior play … crazy crew cut … glasses … sister Grace … screwball … hobby-baseball …friend to all.
Rest in peace friend …
Maryalys always sent me an email when she liked an article in the Courier. That was the only contact I had with her.
By her Reynoldsburg High School 1943 senior picture (on the right), it has,
Mac - Girl Reserves, Band, Glee Club, Mixed Chorus, Sextet, Honor Society, F.H.A., Annual Staff
Since Obituaries are always so cut and dried, stating mostly facts, I wanted her to have an introduction, so I asked her younger brother, Ray, to write something. Hold on to your hat!
~ Mary Turner Stoots
From the desk of Raymond G. Karnes:
This may ramble a bit but what else can you expect from me?
Maryalys was a rebellious sort as far back as I can remember and the only one of we kids with whom dad ever became angry despite the fact that he also had me and Archie (Butter, as MA dubbed him because she couldn't say brother) who detested school and later joined the Navy after quitting school at 17 to serve in the Pacific. Learning of this assignment provided the only time I ever saw mom cry and dad hold her close before we kids because of the cruelties which had been reported of the Japanese to their prisoners. (You know in those days you did not publicly display love or grief in public or before your children, especially if you were United Presbyterian. (Smile Fred, you know it's true.)) And I, who was always a smart-ass every waking moment. Ruth was always quiet, holding a fiery temper in check only excepting occasions involving brother, Ray, and Pat Savage where there seemed to be almost a natural enmity born of generations of opposition. (Who knows what evil lurks in the minds of teen-age girls. Only the Shadow do.
She and dad had a guarded relationship over the years, maybe because much of her artistic ability was derived from his side of the family not mom's (Graham's). Dad, after all had only reached the 10th grade in education and was neither famous nor wealthy, although he was a self-taught electrician, devoted husband, and father, sober and hard-working, honest, truthful, all attributes with which I'm sure you are familiar. Although these are important characteristics among the hoi polloi, they are not particularly important to the high, mighty, wealthy, and influential. (Do I note a shade of cynicism there?)
She and I have also enjoyed a similar relationship. We are relaxed in our conversations, comfortable, and have a lot of fun recalling our histories but we also realize that we are far apart in most matters even if we share like political philosophies differing only in degree. For example: I MIGHT vote for Jesus Christ if he ran as a Democrat, she would not.
Ruth and Butter were the quiet ones. Maryalys and I, the mouthy blowhards. Since we were favorably inclined we naturally struck sparks and disagreed on most things, especially concerning social items. Whereas she was impressed by the famous, influential wealthy and powerful, my experience had shown me that they knew very little more than the lower and middle-class hard-working folks except in areas (mostly unimportant) which they experienced only because of their position. The common folk in my experience were a lot more trustworthy, tolerant and personable with senses of humor.
It was obvious that I was common early on in her college experience since I expected flowers in her paintings to look like plants and people should have the normal numbers of appendages associated with homo-sapiens and male nudes held no attraction. They were just bare-assed hairy ugly men. (Don't remember any females. Do you suppose she and mom held those back from me?)
She pretty much fell out of touch for some years (to me, although she kept in contact with Mom and Dad). I do remember taking my wife-to-be to Hamilton, Ohio where she was teaching and, by then, married to a fine man with a quiet but good sense of humor. She was gracious in her welcome to my betrothed and probably wishing her well in the trying years ahead dealing with me.
Later on, she was a tad discomfited when learning of Jennie's pregnancy for she had allotted herself the honor of granting the folks their first grandchild, but, what the heck, she had a five-year head start and didn't take advantage of it.
In many ways MA was an enigma: she could be the most gracious hostess, a person of great humor and laughter and a pleasure to be with. She could also be biting, rude and a dragon. Haughty and sometimes ill-humored or mercurial in temperament or wildly funny and outlandish in her actions. We not only tolerated each other but somehow seemed to enjoy the times we were together. Maybe my feeling about the wealthy influential mob contrasted well with her obeisance to it that we meshed in our Republicanism, of which my brand wandered near Libertarianism. That is, she wanted Democrats dead, I only want them out of the way. A matter of degree, dontcha know.
Somewhere in school she got the hated (by her) nickname of Budge (sp?) with the "u" pronounced as the "oo" in wood. Obviously, that name died as soon as she could kill it after high school.
Miss Click, whose heartthrob was Clark Gable, told Maryalys she was not college material which may have been part of challenge of her life, certainly part of the drive to her doctorate.
She was a grad of OSU ('46), worked at the Army Depot in Columbus while in school, taught school in Oak Ridge, Tennessee where she met her husband Ed, an engineer at the Manhattan Project, the development of the Atomic Bomb, later used to convince the Japanese that it might be wise to consider capitulation over annihilation. Married in 1949, son, Ed in '56.
She and her family later moved to California to enjoy the sunshine, gentle weather, overall climate, and the tent communities, etc.
In High School she was active in most everything she could be, which was generally true of her entire life to my knowledge.
Like her or not, she was unique, she was opinionated, bull-headed, single-minded, sometimes dense as a tree stump, stubborn as a mule, gracious as an angel (whoops, that may be a gross overstatement. Lightning struck somewhere.) Yet, she and I got along pretty well.............hmm, wonder what this says about me...................
The delay in interment was probably due to her demand for control of all earthly and spiritual conditions, including God and weather. It is very possible that the actual weather forecast was for overcast and rain but she changed it even if it meant raining on preparations for the Queen's seventieth anniversary.
I did bring a stake just in case the cremation didn't take. (No, you're wrong, I think she'd laugh at this statement, especially coming from me.)
God bless her and may all things go well for her, wherever she is. Vaya con Dios, MAK!
Maryalys Karnes Hill died April 16, 2022 at her home in Newhall, California. She was 96 years old and had been a resident of Santa Clarita for almost 15 years. Prior to Santa Clarita she lived in San Diego for over 40 years. Born in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, Maryalys graduated from Ohio State University where she studied education. She taught elementary school in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during and after World War II. While living in Oak Ridge she met Edward L. Hill and they were married in 1949. They settled in Hamilton, Ohio, and their son Edward F. Hill was born in 1956.
After moving to San Diego in 1960, she received a Masters Degree from San Diego State University and later a Doctorate from United States International University. She taught art and art history at San Diego State University, San Diego Community Colleges, and Naval Base San Diego. She was the host of a local San Diego television show about art in the 1980’s. She also led museum tours discussing the art people saw as well as the context behind it. After retiring from teaching, she spent her time researching theories on the history of art as well as writing novels.
Since moving to Santa Clarita, Maryalys has enjoyed entertaining friends and family at her home and at local restaurants. She has attended many plays at the Canyon Theatre Guild and many concerts by the Santa Clarita Master Chorale. She loved spending time at the beach and especially enjoyed boat rides around Channel Islands Harbor where she liked to read off the names of the boats.
Throughout her life she loved to play the piano and sing. She also painted and drew many pieces which hang in the homes of family members.
A Celebration of Life is planned in Santa Clarita on May 21 at the home of Ed and Dana Hill. A graveside service is planned at Glen Rest Memorial Estates in Reynoldsburg, Ohio on June 3 with a Celebration of Life afterwards. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the Santa Clarita Master Chorale. To give by mail, send checks to Santa Clarita Master Chorale , P.O. Box 800459, Santa Clarita, CA 91380.
Maryalys is survived by her brother Raymond Karnes, son Edward F. Hill, daughter-in-law Dana Brandt Hill, three grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. Just as she lived her life, Maryalys passed peacefully and on her own terms. She will be missed.
From the 50th Reunion for RHS Class of 1965 - Commemorative Book of 2015:
Bill served with the US Air Force for six years (1965-1971) as a Crew Chief B5 and KC-135. He then spent 30 years with A.E.P. as meter electrician, wireman, and tester. During that time he was Union Officer for 25 years and 10 years as Union Business Manager.
Bill has been retired for 15 years and he sometimes likes retirement and sometimes he doesn’t. He has a son, Andy (45) who is married to Tiffany with two children (Bill’s grandchildren), Baylee (20) and Paris (12). Bill’s daughter, Andrea Benedetto (40) has three children (Bill’s grandkids); Ryan (23 who was in the Army for five years) and his wife Amanda, Hunter (12) and Shane (6). Bill has a boxer dog named Sassy Sue who is 10 years old. Bill is a member of St. Pius X Church, 4-S Club, Knights of Columbus (4th Degree member), AmVets, and VFW.
Bill says, “I have been very blessed mostly. I served our country, married twice with two children and five grandchildren. I always had a job and an income, for that I was truly blessed. I lost my second wife, Pam, in 2010 due to her death. We enjoyed our life together for 40 years in May 2010. I have had 12 surgeries on my right knee and leg, and I am confined to a wheelchair because I cannot stand. I was confined to a bed for three years until the V.A. got me a home-based team and got me able to start moving. Because of being confined to a bed, my weight got close to 500 lbs. and now I’m about 375 lbs. I am also learning how to drive again. The V.A. on March 25, 2015 awarded me the very first Award of Wellness Warrior Wall of Fame Recipient. I have lost both of my parents, two brothers (Mike and Roger) and my wife, Pam. I still feel very blessed that I am still here as we prepare ourselves to enjoy this reunion and remember all our classmates we have lost and the ones that are ill. There is always someone worse off than you. Enjoy life. It is really too short not to, and it is too often taken for granted. – Bill Kibbey”
William L. Kibbey, age 72, passed away at home on Tuesday, September 17, 2019. He was born in Columbus, Ohio on December 25, 1946 to the late Frederick and Dorothy (Curtis) Kibbey.
Bill graduated from Reynoldsburg High School in 1965 and proudly served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam Era. He was an electrician with IBEW Local 1466, lifetime member of St. Pius X Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, the Eagles, and the VFW. Bill was also an avid Buckeye fan.
In addition to his parents, Bill was preceded in death by his wife Pamela and brothers Michael and Roger. Left to cherish his memory are his son, William A. (Tiffany); daughter, Andrea Benedetto; five grandchildren; one great-granddaughter; sister, Rachel; brothers, Mark (Margaret) and Ted (Kay); brother-in-law, Ron Betz (Richard); several nieces and nephews and beloved dog, Chevy.
Family received friends at Schoedinger East Chapel, 5360 E. Livingston Ave, where Bill's sister, Rachel led the Rosary at 7:30 pm. Mass of Christian Burial was held at 10 am Saturday, September 28, 2019 at St. Pius X Catholic Church, 1051 Waggoner Rd. Interment followed at Glen Rest Memorial Estate. Contributions may be made in Bill's memory to a charity of choice.
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.
David Leigh McConagha - RHS 1959
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."