by Ashley Heeney

Reporter

Tallmadge -- Thirty-five members of Ohio's oldest continuously-meeting historical society gathered May 12 for the group's 149th annual dinner and regular business meeting at the Old Town Hall.

The dinner marked number 40 for devoted society members Gene and Betty Stalnaker, who said the first annual dinners they attended took place at a local school.

Today, the society calls Old Town Hall its home and has adorned its walls with memorabilia of Tallmadge yesteryear.

"We organized barn sales to get us through," said Betty Stalnaker of the days the society struggled before being left with a generous endowment by Mary Ann Rasp in 1983.

Dinner guests took time to reflect on Tallmadge history and share personal stories with younger members such as Kyle Klever, Christy Counterman and Diane Grimm, while enjoying a buffet meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes, vegetables, salad and rolls catered by Tallmadge Family Restaurant and pies supplied by Hartville Kitchen.

A business meeting and short program followed.

Officers and the advisory committee, as well as executive boards with terms ending 2008, 2009 and 2010 were announced. Appointments were also made. Society President Fred Wybenga said the organization is in need of a secretary.

Jim Mackey shared his 40-item list and accompanying locational map of historic places to see and visit as a proposal to the school district to involve and energize students about Tallmadge history.

Mayor Christopher Grimm announced the June 23 and 24 family and entertainment events on and around the Circle, as well as the Sept. 2 fireworks display planned at the Summit County Fairgrounds -- "the largest firework display in the area." Grimm expressed thanks to the Tallmadge Bicentennial Committee Chair Joan Reisig for her leadership in the year's events.

"Hats off to the entire community. It's been a great birthday so far," he said.

Diane Grimm said items from the 1957 sesquicentennial and the 175th anniversary in 1987 are on display at various spots in the community, including the Tallmadge Recreation Center, the community center and at the Schenkenberger house at 35 Southwest Ave.

A table was set up featuring bicentennial ornaments custom-designed by Quantum Jewelry and a German glass blower Reisig met in Akron at Lock 3. These, along with bicentennial apparel, are available for sale at selected locations throughout the city.

A computer set to the Internet page of Akron Library's digital Lawrence Collection, and a digital video display of "scrapbook" images were on view during the meeting

Diane Grimm said some of the images will go into the bicentennial publication which will be distributed to all residents for free (but will later be sold). She also circulated a "mystery photo" of a former Tallmadge Circle restaurant in hopes someone can recognize its exact whereabouts.

Kyle Klever "returned from the past" in 19th century garb to invite all to visit him and his friends in Old Tallmadge Cemetery June 5, 12 and 19 at 7 p.m. for the Tallmadge Foundation's cemetery tours.

Dick Smith honored "two wonderful dear ladies with strong ties to Akron and Tallmadge" Joann Hillegas, who died at 76 in October 2006 and Betty Cummings who died at 81 this April.

Smith said Hillegas was a "brave and strong person with a lovely voice," and noted how Cummings took interesting notes from society meetings and had an interesting narrative. She left the generous gift of her pipe organ to the society, he said.

Wybenga said the society is maintaining the burial site of Rasp, buried with her parents, who was without descendants.

"It's the least we can do," he said.

Treasurer Gene Stalnaker reported has $50,000 is its account. Considering the financial well-being of the society, Wybenga proposed "what [the society] could be doing, and should be doing" to help preserve Tallmadge's historical structures.

The society's income comes from Old Town Hall rentals and merchandise sales. Expenditures include the restoration of the 35 Southwest Ave. Schenkenberger home, which will receive a plaque from the Summit County Century Homes Association May 25. The first public open house will be on Memorial Day, immediately after ceremonies at the cemetery.

The evening concluded in its traditional fashion -- with the singing of "Auld Lang Syne."

E-mail: aheeney@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-686-3911