When Lucille Keeton arrived in Rossford in 1920 as a girl, no one could have foreseen the impact she would have on the community. Now, after 80 years of steady effort in the city, her impact is impossible to ignore.
Mrs. Keeton, 90, has spent most of her life in public service.
“She's motivated by others' need. If there was ever any civic cause, you could count on Lucille to be there,” said Matthew Brichta, the former chief of police in Rossford. “If Rossford had a patron saint, it'd be her.”
Rossford mayor Mark Zuchowski said there's no one quite like her.
“I've known of her my whole life, and worked with her closely the last 10 years. She's done so much for this community. We're very fortunate to have her,” he said.
Mrs. Keeton has been involved with the American Cancer Society and the Navy Mothers' Club and has worked on countless civic projects for Rossford.
Evidence of her efforts lines the city's Main Street. She played a big role in the construction of the Rossford public library, the high school football stadium, and the George G. Wolfe Field House.
“This building wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Lucille,” said Marsha Wagner, director of the Rossford public library.
Mrs. Keeton co-chaired the committee established to raise funds for the library building, which went up in 1950. She was rally chairman for the effort, though she is reluctant to take the kind of credit that most people feel she deserves. She has come to know most of what has gone on in Rossford since the 1920s and is now a local historian.
“Mrs. Keeton is an invaluable resource,” said Miss Wagner. “She has donated many historical materials to the library. She even wrote a history of Rossford that was published in 1973 as an edition to the local paper.”
In recognition of her contributions, the Rossford public library named its local history room after her in June, 1998.
She also writes a column that appears in the Rossford Record titled “Our Boys in Service.” She has been writing it for nearly 54 years. “Just before the Korean War, my son and several of his friends came to me and asked me to help them keep in touch after they enlisted. The only way I knew how to do it was with the local paper,” Mrs. Keeton said.
She filled her column with letters from soldiers and profiles of local men in the service, and during the Korean War, she organized an effort to send copies of the paper all over the world to enlisted men from the area.
“They needed something from home,” Mrs. Keeton said.
Her work with the column touched many personally.
“My brothers were in the service, and for awhile we didn't know how to reach them or where they were,” said Charlotte Ransom-Starnes, a friend of Mrs. Keeton's since high school. “When Lucille found out, she searched for them; she was the one who put us back in touch.”
Mrs. Keeton's efforts have attracted a great deal of attention, beginning in 1952 when the Rossford area VFW honored her for community service.
She has received myriad other awards, including local radio's “Woman of the Year” award in 1954, the Rossford senior citizen of the year award in 1987, and the Lyle R. Fletcher good citizenship award for Wood County in 1998, and she has been the subject of several governmental proclamations, on the local and state level, that laud her work.
Last month, she was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Rossford Record at a reception held in the Lucille H. Keeton room at the Rossford public library.
In addition, she was made an honorary lifetime member of the Rossford police department.
“Lucille is a rock for this community,” Mrs. Ransom-Starnes said. “She has been a mentor to so many people, and to so many causes. She is a ball of inspiration to all those around her.”
She is still active with many of the causes she has been involved with for three quarters of a century. Through it all, Mrs. Keeton has remained dedicated and humble. “I couldn't have done any of this without the undying support of my husband, Kenneth, and my son, Skip,” Mrs. Keeton said.
She also credits her upbringing.
“My parents always worked hard, and they taught me that the most important thing is to help those who need it. That's all I've ever tried to do,” she said.