West Side News

Museum launches exhibit on famous Grove City residents

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Athletes, politicians and even a star of silent-era Westerns have come from Grove City, and a new exhibit is highlighting them.

The Grove City Welcome Center and Museum, located at 3378 Park St., is now home to the new exhibit, sponsored by the Southwest Franklin County Historical Society.

It features information about and artifacts from residents -- current or former, alive or deceased -- who have made an impact in their field and brought attention to Grove City. The exhibit features a brief biography of each of the individuals, photographs and selected personal items on loan.

"I hope it's something that can maybe bring a sense of pride that Grove City is not just a suburb of Columbus," said Jim Hale, who is chairman of the Grove City Historical Commission and affiliated with the historical society. "We have some prominent people who really put Grove City on the map."

Those people include:

* Rex Lloyd Lease, who went to Hollywood in the 1920s and appeared in nearly 300 movies, mostly Westerns.

* Walter Poenisch, who swam from Cuba to Florida in 1978. A featured photo shows him drinking pineapple juice with Fidel Castro.

* Gary Burley, an Urbancrest native who played defensive end in the National Football League for 10 years, for the Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons.

* Roberta Camp, the 2007 Miss Ohio. A dress she wore in the competition is in the exhibit.

"What we're doing is just calling to attention to the people who brought recognition to Grove City," Hale said. "These are people we don't think about or remember too often."

Political figures are also in the exhibit, including former mayor and current Ohio Rep. Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) and Richard Cordray, former three-time Jeopardy! champion, Ohio attorney general and the first director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Also included is Ellen Walker Craig, who in 1971 was elected mayor of Urbancrest, becoming the first African-American woman to be elected by popular vote as mayor of a municipality in the United States, according to the exhibit.

Also featured is information on a man known locally as Chief White Hawk. A Cherokee Indian who lived just outside Grove City, he sold herbs and natural medicines in the area. Two of his children attended Grove City schools in the 1920s.

Currently, the exhibit showcases 16 individuals, and Hale said five more are being researched and reviewed.

The exhibit will run through August, but gathering information on prominent residents will be an ongoing project at the museum.

Visitors to the facility are invited to fill out forms to nominate other residents they believe should be included.

"It's not a huge display, but it's kind of a start," Hale said. "I'm sure there's more out there that we just don't know about yet, and that's an important part of our history."

Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 614-875-9560.

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