Certain that I’d find Chambers empty at this time of day, I asked why they were looking for Council Chambers. They explained that they had been on a bus tour up to Niagara Falls and the bus driver was from Kent so they struck up a conversation about the “good old days” in Kent. They all got to talking and when they shared their name, the bus driver recognized the name and told them that there’s a picture of one of their relatives hanging on the wall in Council Chambers. They didn’t know whether to believe the bus driver or not so they decided to take a trip to Kent to see if was true.
As we walked to the Chambers, they told me that it had been many years since they’d been back to Kent. They don’t live far (Akron and Cleveland) but they just don’t get back this way all that often — so this was a special trip.
As I opened the Chamber door I was trying to remember what pictures were hanging on the wall. I could recall the pictures of our sister City in Slovakia but I honestly couldn’t remember any portraits — which was bad because I couldn’t bear to disappoint my guests.
To my great relief, I saw the photo as soon as I opened the door.
It turns out that the picture is actually of the woman’s grandfather. She is Ruth Travis (Anderson) and at 95 years old she is the oldest living relative of Mr. Ben Anderson who was a Councilman in the late 1950’s and then again from 1970 to 1973. The man with her turned out to be her oldest son, William. They had lots of stories about Kent. She graduated from Roosevelt (which I think was Davey at the time) in 1932. The son said that his “grand-dad” had a 3rd grade education but was famous around town.
Ruth is amazingly sprite for 95 years young. I never would have guessed her age. She had never seen the picture before and she didn’t even know it existed. You could tell that it meant a lot to her to see the the photo still hanging today, some 35 years after his last term. She bragged that he was the first african-american to serve on Council in Kent. I ran over and got our digital camera, took a picture of the picture, and printed it out for them so they could have something to take with them.
They said they’ll be having a big family reunion this summer and they wondered if the Mayor and Council would be willing to write a little something about their grandfather in a letter that they could share with the rest of the family. I told them that I thought we could do that. After about 20 minutes, as they thanked me before leaving, they asked my name, and when I told them I was the city manager, they couldn’t believe it and kept apologizing for taking so much of my time. I told them there was nothing to apologize about, it was the best use of my time all week.
It was nice to share a little part of Kent history yesterday, and I can’t think of a better way to start the memorial day weekend than to share it with you too.
Have a great holiday.