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Jack K. Paquette named his new book, Small Town Girl, for the remarkable Marjorie Whiteman, a farmer's daughter born in 1898, 30 miles southwest of Toledo in Liberty Center.
"I fell in love with Marjorie Whiteman," he said, a woman, described as brilliant, charming, and with a phenomenal memory, whose talents propelled her light years from her humble beginnings.
In 1924, she was the second woman to enroll in Yale University's law college. She became an expert in international law with a specialty in Latin American diplomacy for the U.S. State Department where, for 41 years, she put in long days, retiring at 72. She also advised the U.S. delegation to the fledgling United Nations as they wrote its charter and worked closely with Eleanor Roosevelt when the former First Lady was the U.S. delegate to the U.N. and head of its Commission on Human Rights.
In 1970, she and her sister Helen, with whom she shared a gracious Washington home and spectacular garden, returned to live out their days at the family farm in Northwest Ohio.
The chapters "may be read in their entirety during one of those periods when you have a little downtime, or just before you turn out the light at bedtime," he wrote.Miss Whiteman is among 20 Northwest Ohioans, ordinary people who led extraordinary lives, that Paquette, of Sylvania Township, has written biographical sketches on -- no more than 15 pages each -- in his new 199-page book.
Singer Teresa Brewer, pianist Art Tatum, strip-tease Rose La Rose, comedian Joe E. Brown, pioneer- scout Peter Navarre, activist Ella P. Stewart, artist Edmund Osthaus, and public servant Brand Whitlock are among of the best known. There's also businesswoman/art collector/founder of the Sisters of St. Francis Anne Sandusky aka Mother Adelaide, philanthropist Anna Mott, home-run king Grant Johnson, and Betsy Mo-John, a Native American woman whose husband built her a log house in 1853 overlooking Lake Erie in Ottawa County. Paquette realizes that a whole generation may know little about any of them. It's the sixth local history book for Paquette, 88, who retired from Owens-Illinois Inc. as vice president and assistant to the CEO.
A rags to riches tale is Joe E. Brown's, the third of seven children born to a sometimes-house painter. They were so hungry, he volunteered at the age of seven (in 1899) to earn money by selling newspapers and shining shoes. At 10, his parents let him join a circus and train to be an acrobat, and by 14, he was doing vaudeville in the Big Apple. With a cavernous mouth and comic physicality that's been likened to Jim Carrey and Jerry Lewis, Brown went on to star in films. For his tremendous efforts to entertain the troops during World War II, which intensified after his son was killed, he was awarded one of only two military Bronze Stars given to to civilians.
Ernst Gottschalk was born in the Black Forest region of Germany in 1893. A physician and a Jew, he and his family fled Germany before World War II, and in 1940, landed in Fremont where he set up a medical practice, serving its large German-speaking population first, and gradually, the general public. He was known for delighting patients with advice such as: for a cold, get a shot of either penicillin or schnapps; either way, the cold with last four days. And if you fall, be sure to fall on your head; it's the hardest part of the body and there's usually nothing inside.
We take for granted that women have the right to vote, children must be safe, and animals deserve shelter, all of which were labored for by those who came before us. Anna Mott gave untold hours and sums of money to advance those causes and opened her home to countless meetings and out-of-town activists. The daughter of Richard Mott, a successful Toledo businessman and proponent of social causes, she helped found the city's Women's Suffrage Association, and in 1869 (51 years before women won the right to vote), she led a controversial campaign to get a woman (herself) on the library's board of directors. Her support of the rights of children and animals led to the establishment of the Lucas County Children's Home and the Toledo Humane Society.
The book's funniest character may be the illustrious Clyde Tingley, an uncouth country boy with bad grammar and a penchant for saying "ain't" even after he became governor of New Mexico. Born in 1881 in central Ohio, he went to Bowling Green in 1908 to supervise a factory. It was his good luck to fall in love with Carrie Wooster, the daughter of a wealthy Bowling Green farmer.
Before they married, her father died of tuberculosis and Carrie contracted the disease. She and her mother, accompanied by Tingley, took a southwest train in 1911, believing that the dry air would improve her lungs. They got off in Albuquerque, population 11,000, married, and moved into a small home with her mother. He became a city commissioner, mayor, and the town's tourism director. Turns out he had a talent for staging major events that drew famous and well-heeled visitors, people he would befriend and who'd return to hunt and fish with him.
Some of his ideas were outrageous and the citizenry scoffed, but Carrie never did. Tingley said he'd turn the city dump along the Rio Grande River into a scenic drive with a beach, and he did, using the river's water to build a lake and swimming area. When a couple of men building the first airport ran out of money, he let them use the city's construction equipment at night and on weekends. He created beautiful public parks that were watered from deep reservoirs, and built the area's first zoo, asking his Hollywood friends to donate animals. Movie star Douglas Fairbanks donated a troupe of monkeys that had appeared in one of his jungle films, and when he came to town, Tingley introduced him saying, "I invited this famous man to Albuquerque today so you people could see where the monkeys come from."
At the 1928 Democratic National Convention, he met Franklin D. Roosevelt, and they hit it off. Seven years later, when Clyde became governor and FDR president, that friendship proved invaluable. Federal money flowed to New Mexico "like honey from a beehive," Mr. Paquette wrote, building amenities in New Mexico such as airports, roads, schools, hospitals, parks, and dams.
And when a 1937 newspaper headline proclaimed "Governor Tingley Ain't Gonna Quit Saying Ain't," he had the word's origins researched and concluded "They traced it back to the Revolutionary War, and if that ain't good enough, what is?"
Paquette spent about nine months researching and writing the book. It began when he pulled a tin box off a closet shelf that had belonged to his wife's grandmother who was married to Ed Russell. The old box held newspaper clippings of Russell's essays, his daily appointment books, and an 1879 copyright for a play. Paquette was intrigued and began hunting online, eventually obtaining the script from the Library of Congress.
Born in Fremont in 1855, Russell was nuts about theater. At 24, he came to Toledo to see a Civil War melodrama called Harry Allen, the Union Spy, a play bursting with music, choruses, a cast of nearly 100, and innovative stage effects. Russell was so enthralled, he stayed for a week attending every performance; shortly thereafter, he purchased the script's copyright.
For the next 15 years, he directed, produced, and starred in the show in 100 Midwestern communities. Going from town to town, he found local sponsors, venues, and recruited and trained townsfolk to perform in it. At 40, he gave up the greasepaint and took work as a salesman traveling by train from Ohio to California to sell rubber goods to drug stores. At 66, he became Fremont's safety directory, became active in several fraternal organizations he'd helped found, and, because of his wonderful wit, was often asked to be master of ceremonies.
Paquette wrote Russell's story for his and his wife, Jane's, four children and three great grandchildren, who loved it and encouraged him to write more. He happily rolled up his sleeves and dove in.
"My grave concern is would I live long enough to finish the book," he said, adding that he has enough information for a second book on notable folk.
His own memoir about growing up in poverty, his years in Lucas County Children's Home, and being adopted at 13 by a Fremont couple, A Boy's Journey Through the Great Depression, is his best seller.
"I just love history. It's because I've always been interested in people and people are history."
Small Town Girl by Jack K. Paquette can be purchased at the Wolcott House gift shop in Maumee, at amazon.com, and barnesandnoble.com.
Contact Tahree Lane at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6075.