Booster

Community Volunteer of the Year

Rodgers' impact evident all over Clintonville

Neighborhood's residents have historical society leader to thank for mural, gardens, more

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CHRIS PARKER/THISWEEKNEWS
Mary Rodgers kneels Feb. 20 behind one of the monuments in the Memory Gardens along West North Broadway, which she helped to create last year. Rodgers, president of the Clintonville Historical Society, is the ThisWeek Booster Community Volunteer of the Year.
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The Memory Gardens along West North Broadway.

Tours of the historic Union Cemetery.

Trolley rides carrying revelers up and down North High Street at Christmastime.

A traffic-stopping mural at the East North Broadway railroad underpass.

Businesses sporting spirited window paint for Halloween.

These Clintonville hallmarks and more are indirectly the result of an inspiring teacher years ago at Buckeye Valley High School in Delaware.

Alan King left a young Mary Rodgers with an abiding interest in and love of history -- one that was never diminished by accounting classes or a career as a financial officer.

Rodgers, president of the Clintonville Historical Society, has been named ThisWeek Booster Community Volunteer of the Year by the Booster and the Clintonville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Rodgers was the overwhelming favorite for the annual award, based on nomination forms filled out by Clintonville residents.

"Mary has done so much for promoting Clintonville through her involvement with the Clintonville Historical Society," wrote Ginger Haack on her nomination form.

"I cannot think of a Clintonville resident who has done more for the community, as a volunteer, during 2012 than Mary Rodgers," wrote Cliff Wiltshire, formerly editor of the Booster and now with the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center and Experience Clintonville.

"A couple of her most prominent projects will have an impact on Clintonville for years to come," Wiltshire wrote, noting the importance of the Memory Gardens project that honors Clintonville's war heroes and the North Broadway mural that illustrates the neighborhood's history.

"Those two efforts are noteworthy enough," Wiltshire wrote. "Brought to life only after countless hours and hours of planning, fundraising and organizing, they are seen by thousands of residents every day. Both are projects all local residents can be proud of."

Wiltshire also mentioned Rodgers' efforts in bringing back the Halloween tradition of having students paint storefront windows, the role Rodgers played in a Clintonville Arts Guild fundraiser and her involvement in HolidayVille.

"Clintonville has many wonderful volunteers involved in an assortment of activities near and far," he concluded, "but during 2012, no one spent their volunteer hours on projects that made as big an impact on Clintonville and its residents than Mary Rodgers."

"My reaction was to be surprised, of course, because I've never really won an award that I'm recalling," Rodgers said last week. "It's exciting to have the historical society recognized as well as being a contributor.

"I think it's a great idea to have an awards program. I'm joining a whole bunch of very distinguished people."

Although her high school teacher stirred in her an interest in history, Rodgers initially majored in accounting at what was then Ohio Dominican College.

"That was because my father felt the reason to go to college was to have an appropriate money-making career path," Rodgers said.

She eventually switched her major to social science.

"I told my father it was because I wanted to study something that was interesting," she said.

Still, after graduating, Rodgers went back and got that accounting degree.

When she retired from working for Columbus Wood Products -- and before opening her own store, Moxie's on North High Street -- Rodgers said she decided to reconnect with the interest sparked by her high school teacher and joined the Clintonville Historical Society.

"I think a lot more people are becoming interested in the microhistory," she said. "We get more and more calls: 'Tell me about my house; tell me about the people who lived there.' "

Rodgers said she is endlessly fascinated by the day-to-day stories of those who went before her in the neighborhood, because these are the tales that "keep it safe and keep it moving forward."

"Our stories are the stories that people are going to want to hear over and over again, just like we want to hear the story about our grandparents and how they came to this country," she said.

Other recent winners of the Community Volunteer of the Year award include Judy Robinson of Shaklee Products; Jim Caronis of Operation Buckeye; John Umpleby; Indian Springs Elementary School volunteer Charlie Walker; and Tim McCoy of Boy Scout Troop 474.

Rodgers will receive her award during the chamber's annual Celebrate Clintonville Awards Dinner and Silent Auction, to be held Friday, March 1, at the Fawcett Center.

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