LOUDONVILLE -- Loudonville's Jeanne Griffin, 95, has won the Ohio Museums Association's Betty Bryan Volunteer of the Year award on Sunday, April 11.
Griffin, who serves as an experienced historical tour guide at the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum, has been volunteering at the museum since 2012. She has also since served a term as president of the Mohican Historical Society, which operates the museum and the log cabin in the central park of Loudonville. She's lived in the town for over 80 years.
“I just love (giving tours)," Griffin said. "The first 85 years of my life were great, but this last 10 years have been fantastic.
“It’s something I love to do, so it’s nice that other people know I love to do it. You’ve got to keep your mind and your body active your whole life. When you come into the museum, you have to be active and your mind has to retain information, and I think that has helped me."
A virtual award ceremony was hosted by the Ohio Museums Association on April 11.
Griffin, a lover of history and natural people-person, moved to Ohio in 1939 during the Great Depression while she was a freshman in high school. Her father found work at the Flxible Company in Loudonville.
The transition to Loudonville was intimidating for Griffin, as she was raised in a more populated town in Indiana.
“I was born in Connersville, Indiana, where it was a town of about 30,000 to 40,000, and we knew we were coming to a town of about 3,000," Griffin said. "I thought, ‘What kind of town was dad bringing us to?’ But (Loudonville) turned into my home.”
“A lot of the girls in my class wanted to be nurses, but I didn’t like biology at that time. When I graduated from high school, I had an offer to work in the bank and I became a teller.”
Griffin was a teller for six years. She was eventually hired at the Flxible Company and worked there until 1988. Her husband served in the Air Force during World War II and was stationed in England.
“In those years, you were just lucky to be going to school," Griffin said. "We had a holocaust survivor visit a few years ago.
"He was telling about what happened to him during the war, and I said, ‘I was going to school,’ because I graduated in 1943. I had no idea what they were going through over there. He hugged me and said, ‘Don’t worry, nobody knew what we were going through.’ The only thing I missed during the war was that we had sugar rationed, and my mother couldn’t make candy."
Years later, Griffin and her husband frequented the CRF Museum's monthly programs together. When he passed away in 2009, Griffin began visiting the museum more often.
She eventually became more involved in the museum and starting leading tours. Griffin has taught the museum's history to individuals spanning all generational spectrums.
Cleo Redd Fisher Museum tour guides take pride in only telling their guests the truth, especially when students tour the museum on field trips.
“If we don’t learn from the past, we’re lost," Griffin said. "There are things that I wouldn’t want to do anymore, that they used to have to do in the olden days.
"Women are better off nowadays.”
Griffin's favorite piece to talk about in the museum is the handmade 1917 steam whistle. On Nov. 11, 1918 at 11 a.m., the whistle blew signifying the end of World War I.
It was then given to the Flxible Company in the 1930’s, and they would blow it at 7 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. If it blew twice at 7:30 a.m., there was no school.
In 2018, the CRF museum restored the steam whistle and blew it on Nov. 11, 2018; 100 years after World War I’s conclusion.
Griffin is very proud of her two sons, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Ashland Source asked Griffin what is the best piece of advice she had for the younger generation:
“Remember that you’re going to get out of life what you put into it," Griffin said. "You’re not going to be rewarded monetarily for everything you do.
"A lot of things have to be done just because you want to do them. If you don’t love the things you are doing, you are wasting your time.”
A living-and-breathing Loudonville encyclopedia, Griffin spends her free time by reading FBI and CIA mystery novels as well as practicing her hobby of oil and pastel painting.
Community members can reserve a tour from historical connoisseur Jeanne Griffin by calling the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum at 419-994-4050. You will be greeted with Griffin's warm smile and leave with a feeling of fulfillment after learning a great deal of Loudonville's past.