Worthington News

Minton recalls storied life in world beyond Worthington

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Harvey and Jane.

Jane and Harvey.

Mr. and Mrs. Mayor.

When one sits down to talk about Harvey Minton's life adventure, one quickly learns he did not go through it alone.

For the past 60 years or so, wife Jane has been by his side, sharing it all -- her sparkle playing off his quiet kindness.

She was there, studying next to him at Ohio State University; fretting about him as he flew dangerous missions in the Air Force; moving about the country as he built a career; and doing his secretarial work when he finally settled down in their private law practice in Worthington.

For the past 16 years, she has attended nearly every Mayor's Court, where he presided, personally greeting the defendants.

She has helped cut nearly every ribbon, stood proudly through hundreds of proclamations and been at all of the 200-or-so weddings at which the mayor officiated.

One of the first things an interviewer notices about Minton is that he rarely uses the "I" pronoun as he reviews his life. Almost always, memories are shared as "we."

For the first 20 years, until he met Jane, and probably sometimes later, "we" was Harvey and John.

John was Dr. John Minton, a world-famous cancer surgeon whose life was cut short in a tragic car accident on the streets of Upper Arlington in 1990.

Only months apart in age, the brothers grew up on the north side of Columbus.

One of Harvey Minton's first memories is of getting lost in the maze of tunnels under Ohio State University. The brothers were enrolled in nursery school at Campbell Hall, where their mother had taught. One day the duo took a walk through an open door, disappearing from the world. Two-and-a-half hours later, they were rescued.

They also attended the Columbus Boys Choir School from grades 5 to 9. They rehearsed twice a day, traveled the world performing and sang with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Boston Symphony.

In 1945, a Christmas performance at Radio City Music Hall was televised in a very early television broadcast.

Brothers Minton went to University High School, where they played football and ran track. John played end, Harvey tackle.

They also played in the band. John played trombone, Harvey trumpet.

Harvey also had a dance band in high school. They played in 88 counties and on the Ted Mack Show, which was an amateur hour in the 1950s.

The brothers went on to Ohio State University, planning to play for coach Woody Hayes. When John failed the physical because of a spine defect, both gave up the pigskins in favor of focusing on academics.

Harvey was class president his freshman year and later became vice president of the student senate and involved in national politics as part of the National Student Association.

It was during college that Harvey met Jane, who was from Bexley and attending Ohio Wesleyan University. They met at a pig barn (both with dates) at the Ohio State Fair and quickly were drawn to each other.

They had their first date in January and were pinned by June. She transferred to OSU, and they were married before he left for the Air Force.

He piloted planes, including fighter jets, mainly in Japan and the Far East. Though it was technically a time of peace, his stories of adventure and near crashes are so exciting and numerous that he has considered turning them into a book.

"It wasn't really a Cold War if you were a pilot," he said.

When they returned, Minton went to law school at Ohio State. Again, he was president of the freshman class.

From law school, he was hired by a Toledo law firm as a real estate lawyer. He traveled all over the world for the firm.

He worked for Owens Illinois for 22 years, first in Toledo and then in Corning, N.Y.

In Toledo, Minton became involved in reforming the local jail, which had raw sewage on the floor and inmates stuck in cells for months without judicial hearings.

During one tour, a man reached through the cell bars and grabbed Minton's arm. He had been imprisoned for nine months for public drunkenness. He used his one phone call to contact his employer. His family did not know where he was, and his records had been lost in the system.

Minton had him out of jail in 20 minutes.

He received a national award from the American Bar Association for his leadership in that effort.

Minton continued traveling with Owens Illinois and eventually became president of one of its companies. Sunmaster was a solar energy company that had become profitable under Minton's leadership.

When the company sold Sunmaster, Minton decided it was time to return home. In 1986, the Mintons moved back to Worthington.

He worked for a Columbus firm for two years and then opened a private practice on High Street in Worthington. Only recently did he and his secretary, Jane, move their office to their Old Worthington home.

His health problems started last year with an old football injury. Plans for a knee replacement were postponed after he tried to pull dandelions in the yard in May and suddenly could not stand.

He endured back surgery, followed by stays a two different rehab centers. He last walked June 28 but vows to walk -- and to dance with Jane -- sometime soon.

Harvey and Jane Minton say they miss their days as Mr. and Mrs. Mayor.

He believes his greatest contribution was the diversion program he developed for young people who came to Mayor's Court on drug or alcohol charges.

Under the program, they could choose a program of counseling and education, which, upon completion, they could have the charges erased from their records.

"It apparently worked out very well for some of them," he said.

Minton also was instrumental in stopping a statewide effort to abolish mayor's courts in Ohio a few years ago. He testified before the Ohio legislature, telling lawmakers that roughly 96 percent of Ohio's mayor's courts were well-run and were providing an important service to the community.

The Mintons appeared at hundreds of dedications, ribbon cuttings and celebrations, always offering proclamations and appreciation on behalf of Worthington.

Their favorite duty was weddings, a job they enjoyed and took seriously.

Minton insisted on interviewing couples prior to the ceremony and one time refused to marry a couple who, in his opinion, were entering into the union for the wrong reasons.

He never hesitated to hold up his own marriage as an ideal and always insisted that his own bride be at his side as he officiated and danced at weddings.

"People were always wonderful to us," Jane Minton said. "They always said it was a beautiful ceremony."

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