A dedication ceremony for Herb Monroe Community Park in Paulding was held Sept. 30. Among the speakers was his son, Bob (center). Talking with him after the event were Terry Buehler, Rhonda Smalley and Marge Roughton.

Feature Writer

PAULDING – The  legacy of one of Paulding’s most beloved residents was forefront on Sept. 30 when the long-awaited park in his honor was dedicated at the corner of Jackson and Main streets, even as restorative work was being done on the beautiful Paulding County Courthouse across the street.

Marsha Yeutter, director of Paulding County Senior Center and chairman of Paulding Chamber of Commerce, told those present that if she would be looking for the perfect definition of a word for “gentleman” in the dictionary, it would be Herb.

Following the ceremony, Yeutter commented on the estimated crowd of 100 people that came out on a soggy and chilly morning to show their respect to Monroe in the midst of the dedication.

“Just look at that crowd in weather like this, see how much they appreciate him,” said Yeutter. “He would come into the senior center every day except Thursday because he knew that was a day when we had liver and onions,” quipped Yeutter. “He always had such a positive attitude that reflected on to everyone else.

“He was always very personal. On Mondays, he asked whether or not I had the opportunity to go to church on Sunday or whether or not our kids had the chance to come home,” said Yeutter. “He was a genuine, caring person.”

Yeutter also lauded the members of the Paulding High School band who were present to play the high school alma mater and “Herb’s Song,” written in honor of Monroe.

Yeutter said that she knew that Monroe would have been embarrassed to see his name on a park, but would have been thrilled to see the community come together.

Monroe’s son, Robert, repeated similar sentiments in referring to his father’s humility, but his desire to see Paulding together as a happy community.

The project began as a dream, but with the help of two Leadership In Action classes sponsored by the Paulding Chamber of Commerce, it became a reality. Paulding Village acquired the property from the Certified gas station and then leased it to the chamber to beautify.

Jane Nice, who recently published the book Married to Millie: The Humble Life of Herb Monroe, was on hand to make remarks and sign copies of her book about Paulding’s favored son. Monroe had been named “Ohio Caregiver of the Year” in 1997, an honor bestowed on him for his committed care to his wife through her journey with Alzheimer’s disease.

On the jacket of her book, Nice said, “I interviewed Herb Monroe nearly every Friday for 10 years to write this book about his life. Herb was locally famous, not because of his great achievements, but because he loved people. Every corner of a room shined brighter when Herb entered it, and the light tended to linger long after he left.”

“Herb would go crazy if he knew that we named a park after him,” commented former chamber director Erika Willitzer, who helped guide the journey of the park’s construction at the site of the abandoned Certified Gas Station in downtown Paulding.

Willitzer said that as she watched the steps unfold in putting together the tribute to Monroe, she could see that God had ultimate plans to make things better around Paulding.

“I see now that this has restored hope in our community,” said Willitzer. “He would be smiling at us right now, knowing how we came together as a community. 

“There’s been three years’ work on this, even a little longer when you consider acquiring the land,” noted Willitzer. “Herb inspired this park. People donated because they believe in his vision and loved him.”

Willitzer said that a few things still need to be done in order to finish the project. Signage is ordered, but not all of it has arrived yet, and a gas insert for the fireplace and mantle pieces need to be set.

Also, engraved bricks from donors are to be laid under the pergola. 

“We are still selling bricks, but they won’t be laid until November,” said Willitzer. “The money raised will go toward the upkeep of the park.”

Newly appointed chamber director Peggy Emerson said that she had just come in on the finishing aspects of the project. However, she loved what she saw in the community involvement.

“Anytime you can get people of the community working together like that, it is a wonderful thing,” said Emerson. “It tells me already what a special community this is.”