Society diversity

Mary Ellen Withrow Collection opened at the Marion County Historical Society

Memories of a Marion County icon’s career are now on permanent display.

The Marion County Historical Society unveiled the Mary Ellen Withrow Collection along with two other permanent exhibits last week. The Woodland Elves Collection and the Buckeye Telephone Company Collection were also presented to the public for the first time.

“Our mission is to collect, preserve and share the history of Marion County,” said Brandi Wilson, executive director of the Marion County Historical Society. “We are lucky to have people who believe in our mission and they continue to help us do what we do. There are so many things we want to do and plan to do and we look forward to sharing so much more with the community.”

Withrow, now 91, served as the 40th treasurer of the United States from 1994 to 2001, appointed to the position by President Bill Clinton. The Marion County native served as Ohio’s 42nd state treasurer from 1983 to 1994. Prior to that, she served as Marion County treasurer from 1977 to 1983.

Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and former U.S. Treasurer Mary Ellen Withrow view artifacts from his collection at the Marion County Historical Society.  The collection was unveiled to the public on Thursday, June 2, 2022.

Withrow began her public service career in 1969 when she was elected to the school board for the Elgin Local School District. She was the first woman elected to the school board of the local school district of Elgin.

“It was so awesome to have the opening and everyone come to see it,” Withrow said after her collection’s dedication ceremony, located on the lower level of Heritage Hall, across from the Warren Collection. G. Harding. “It looks awesome. They did a wonderful job on it. It was a lot of fun. (The ribbon cutting) kind of reminded me of when I did the same thing at the Federal Reserve. I cut the ribbon there when I got my money released a long time ago.”

Withrow served as U.S. Treasurer when the $5, $10, $20, $40, and $100 bills were redesigned in the 1990s.

She said she hopes the exhibit will provide both education and inspiration to those who visit it at the Marion County Historical Society.

“I hope they realize the things that have been accomplished and the things that have happened and how hard it was to get there,” Withrow said. “It was a lot of struggle to achieve all these things and it’s very important to do it if you have the opportunity.”

Former Ohio Governor and Congressman Ted Strickland, a longtime admirer of Withrow, was a surprise guest at the Withrow Collection unveiling event.

“She’s the First Lady of Ohio and someone who is a historical figure, and this proves it,” Strickland said. “I’m proud of you, Mary Ellen.”

Wilson echoed Strickland’s sentiments about Withrow, adding that she is also “Marion’s first lady.”

“Having her collection here and showcasing someone who goes from a wife, to a mother, to the US Treasury, is just phenomenal because it shows you can do anything and anything is possible,” Wilson said. “To be able to show that and have it here at Marion is just a blessing.”

Wood Elves Exhibition

The book and musical series “The Woodland Elves” was created by local residents Shary Williamson, Jay Johnston and Russ Kendall. Written by Williamson and illustrated by Johnston, the first book in the series was released in 2014, and Kendall created an accompanying music CD for it. Williamson said the series

Williamson, who now resides in Orlando, Fla., and Johnston attended the dedication last week at the historical society.

“We were blessed, honored and touched by this,” Williamson said of adding the collection to historical society exhibits. “My goal has always been to convey the joy of life, which has become our goal together. But especially in these times, we continue to be providers of hope and joy in a world that desperately needs all the hope and joy he can get.”

Wilson said having The Woodland Elves Collection in Heritage Hall serves as an inspiration to those in the community who are creative and artistic.

“The Woodland Elves is a unique exhibit in itself,” Wilson said. “It’s a great way to show diversity and that you can spread joy with just the little things you do in life. So having this collection and being able to share it with the community is just wonderful. And there there are a lot of different avenues we can take with this. It’s really special that Shary has entrusted her collection to us.”

This switchboard and telephone booth are part of the collection of the Buckeye Telephone Museum, now housed at the Marion County Historical Society.

Buckeye Telephone Museum

The Buckeye Telephone Museum Collection celebrates the contributions to the community made by GTE to Marion and features vintage telephone equipment from the Claire E. Williams Telephone Museum Association. The exhibit includes directories of the town of Marion published by RL Polk & Co., various types of rotary telephones, switchboards and even a telephone booth.

“For the community, GTE had a pretty large workforce here for a number of years and was really, really important to the community,” Wilson said. “To be able to present and share those memories and just to show off the phones. I love the rotary phone and the people who come to see it. To show how they’ve changed over the years, from the dial to those little pocket phones that we have now, they’re like little computers. It’s just wonderful to have this story to share and show how it’s evolved.

The Woodland Elves and Buckeye Telephone Museum collections are both located on the ground floor of Heritage Hall.

For more information on the Marion County Historical Society, visit their website www.marionhistory.com. The Heritage Room is open from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for children 5 and up. Children under 5 are admitted free.

Email: ecarter@gannett.com | Twitter: @AndrewACCarter