COVID-19 defines 2020 in Twinsburg

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
Hundreds gathered on Twinsburg Town Square Sunday to protest racism and to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

TWINSBURG – There are many words to describe 2020, but “boring” is not one of them.

This year saw a contentious presidential election,  the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the 50th anniversary of the May 4 shootings at Kent State University, the census and nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.

But overshadowing even all of these big events was a tiny virus, which first appeared in the nation early this year. In March, when the first cases of COVID-19 were officially found in Northeast Ohio, the virus led to the closure of government and school buildings, recreation centers, libraries and numerous  businesses. Many people found themselves carving out office space at home as they were told to work remotely. Many others faced furloughs and job loss.

Twinsburg, Reminderville and Twinsburg Township had many noteworthy events this past year, many of them a direct or indirect result of the novel coronavirus. Here is a sampling of events from the past year, in no particular order.

1. Hundreds gather in Twinsburg Town Square to support Black Lives Matter – In late spring, around 600 people gathered at Twinsburg High School and marched down Ravenna Road to Twinsburg Town Square to protest racism and to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

The march ended at a rally on the square, where the crowd gathered to hear speakers discuss the situation facing the nation and how people locally are affected by racism, both systemic, as well as racism people have experienced on an individual level, both in the past and today.The Rev. Tracy Wilson, of the Real Gospel Missionary Baptist Church, and the Rev. Calvin Brown, of Destiny Church, led the prayers.

2. Twinsburg High School graduate dies in boating accident – Jack Benak, a 2019 graduate from Twinsburg High School, died March 12 in a boating accident.  

According to information from Wittenberg University, where Benak was studying graphic design and marketing, he was in southwest Florida at the time of the accident. A freshman, Benak was in his first year as a member of the Wittenberg University Men’s Soccer Team. He also played on Twinsburg High School’s soccer team and was captain.

Twinsburg’s boys soccer coach Mike Lally said that Benak was “a real big personality in the locker room, a great kid.”

3. Public facilities forced to close – Government halls were closed to the public, school buildings were shuttered and classes continued online, library buildings were closed, and many other facilities such as fitness centers and the Twinsburg Senior Center were shut down in mid-March, when the state mandated the closure of such facilities to help control the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many spring activities were postponed or canceled. The Twinsburg City Schools first postponed, then later canceled, the 2020 prom. Graduation ceremonies were taped, then screened at Midway Drive-In Theater in Ravenna.

Many facilities would slowly reopen through late spring and summer.

4. State wrestling tournament suspended, later canceled – The 2020 state wrestling tournament at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus scheduled in March was suspended right before the tournament was scheduled to begin.In April, it was canceled entirely.

Twinsburg wrestling coach Dave Mariola was looking to return to the state tournament by coaching Tiger junior Aidan Corrigan. The 36-year veteran said it never entered his mind that the tournament would be postponed.

“No thought whatsoever that that would take place,” Mariola said. “I know the governor has to did what he had to do, but I think he may have jumped the gun a little.”

Worse yet, Mariola said Corrigan was getting his send-off parade when the news came.

“We found out one minute before the parade started,” Mariola said. “My athletic director came up to me. He says, ‘I don’t want to cancel the parade he’s earned. After the parade, my athletic director told him. AIdan, he took it pretty hard. The boy’s been wrestling since he was 6 years old.”

5. Reminderville welcomes new police chief – Marco Berquist became the new police chief of the village in April, taking over the reins from Jeffrey D. Buck II, who served in the department for 27 years, with 16 of those years as the department’s head.

Berquist has been with the Reminderville police department since 2005, serving in several positions through the years. He began his career with the Hiram Police Department in 2004 as a part-time patrol officer. In February 2005, he was hired by Reminderville as a part-time patrol officer. That August, he became a full time officer.

He was assigned to the U.S. Marshals Violent Fugitive Task Force on a part-time basis while working for the village, and in 2007 he earned a position on the Valley Enforcement Group’s SWAT team. In 2009, he was appointed as Reminderville’s detective.

In 2013, Berquist was promoted to detective sergeant, and four years later he became detective lieutenant.

6. Memorial Day parade and ceremony canceled – For the first time in nearly two decades, the city did not have a Memorial Day parade, nor a public ceremony in the Twinsburg Township Square, due to the pandemic.

Joe Jasany, commander of Twinsburg VFW Post 4929 and Museum, said at the time of the announcement the city would still put up banners on the utility poles, which include photos of veterans who lived in Twinsburg. In addition, the post still decorated the graves of veterans with flags and markers at Crown Hill and Locust Grove cemeteries on the Friday before Memorial Day.

7. Twins Days Festival canceled- Another big event, arguably Twinsburg’s largest event of the year, also was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19. The three-day event generally takes place in early August,and is listed as the Largest Annual Gathering of Twins in the World by the Guinness Book of World Records.

The festival started in 1976, and generally includes many activities, including the Double Take parade, a volleyball tournament, a hot dog cookout, contests, research tables and more. The three-day event has seen more than 77,000 sets of twins and multiples attend over its 43 years, according to information from the Twins Days website. In 2019, which had the theme “Home for the Holidays,” more than 2,400 sets of twins and multiples registered for the festival.

Next year’s festival is scheduled for Aug. 6 through 8 in 2021. For details on the event, visit https://twinsdays.org online.

8. Longtime naturalist Stanley Stine retires -- Stanley Stine, who has served as Twinsburg’s go-to guy for environmental and nature education since 1999, retired at the end of May.

Stine’s nearly 40-year career in parks started in 1982, when he worked for the Park District of Dayton-Montgomery County as a field botanist. He started as a volunteer in 1980, leading hikes, helping with various activities and writing the volunteer newsletter. In 1981, he volunteered with the park district as a as Field Surveyor for a raptor nesting survey.

His path to Twinsburg started when city’s parks and recreation director at the time wanted a naturalist to evaluate Center Valley Park and lead nature hikes, Stine said.

In retirement, Stine said he planned to continue studying nature, with an emphasis on botany, “and perhaps writing a book, if time allows.”

9. New Twinsburg Chamber director takes the reins – The Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce welcomed a new executive director in March – right at the start of the pandemic. The biggest challenge, said Allyson Tonozzi a couple months after she was hired, was switching from personal interactions to virtual communication.

Tonozzi lives in Hudson with her husband Tom. They have a son and daughter.

10. Canine member of CERT retires, retired K-8 dies – Chogan, Twinsburg’s Community Emergency Response Team’s canine member, retired from duty this past May.

James Zammikiel, Chogan’s human, said that Chogan helped calm down people who were in distress and served as a good representative of CERT.

In September, retired K-9 Yasso, who had served with the Twinsburg Police Department for eight years, died at age 12. Yasso had been living with his handler, Officer Yamil Encarnacion. The retired K-9 was euthanized because he was having trouble walking due to hip problems, a common issue for German shepherds, according to information from Twinsburg police.

11. Aaron & Moses Restaurant comes under new management -- Aaron & Moses Restaurant reopened its doors to diners in September, with Chef Art Pour Restaurant Group running the establishment. The restaurant, which is within the Gleneagles Golf Course Clubhouse, was shuttered in March due to the pandemic and the city’s search for a private owner.

In July, City Council approved a lease agreement with JJB Restaurant Enterprises LLC of Chagrin Falls to operate the restaurant, kitchen, bar, banquet hall, outdoor patio, related portions of the building and two beverage carts to serve golfers.

12. Liberty Park annexed into Summit Metro Parks system – In November, the city of Twinsburg officially became a part of the Summit Metro Parks taxing district.

Liberty Park will continue to be owned by the city and the state of Ohio, as well as the park system, said Stephanie Walton, chief of marketing and communications for the Metro Parks.

Lisa M. King, the executive director of Summit Metro Parks, said former city officials and the parks district agreed not to bring the city into the district until the $10 million worth of bonds to purchase the 900-acre part of the park were paid off, so that residents would not be taxed twice.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@thebeaconjournal.com