Frances Horwich of Ottawa was well-known to a generation of preschoolers as Miss Frances, star of the television show 'Ding Dong School,' which debuted in 1952 on NBC.
OTTAWA, Ohio - The star of the 1950s television show Ding Dong School, known simply as Miss Frances, was an unforgettable character to Betsy Baldwin.
When the retired teacher learned Miss Frances was born and raised in this Putnam County village, she decided to do something to honor her memory.
"She was very appealing to children," said Mrs. Baldwin, who remembers watching the show with her daughter. "She just had a voice that caught your attention, like she was talking right to you."
Last summer, Mrs. Baldwin, 81, initiated a campaign to get an Ohio historical marker erected in Ottawa that tells the story of Frances Rappaport Horwich. The marker was to be unveiled this morning at Waterworks Park, home to both the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts clubhouses.
"I thought that would be an ideal place to put it because it would act as an inspiration to young people that other people from Ottawa could achieve great things," she said in a telephone interview.
Miss Frances, who was born in Ottawa in 1907 and graduated from the local high school in 1924, just may be the village's most famous citizen, though not everyone knows it.
Mayor Ken Maag, who was scheduled to speak at this morning's program, admits he had never heard of Miss Frances or Ding Dong School.
"No, I'm not near that old," the 56-year-old mayor said. "You'd probably have to be 75-plus to know her well, although I'm sure she was well-known around the community at the time she had her own TV show. Back in those days, everyone knew who married who, who their dad or grandpa or uncle was."
Miss Frances was the daughter of Sam Rappaport, an Austrian immigrant who met his wife, Rosa, a Russian immigrant, in Findlay. They then moved to Ottawa to open the Rappaport general store - now the Ace Hardware on Main Street.
Frances was the youngest of their six children.
Mrs. Baldwin, who did the research and raised $1,650 to pay for the marker, said it didn't appear Miss Frances returned home many times after she left for college, although some locals recalled that she attended her class's 50th-year reunion in 1974.
She died of congestive heart failure in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 2001 after a long and accomplished life. She earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the University of Chicago, a master's in education from Columbia University, and a PhD from Northwestern University.
She developed Ding Dong School, one of the first educational programs for children, which debuted on NBC in 1952 and continued to be aired into the 1960s. The matronly Miss Frances opened each show by ringing an old-fashioned school bell, then proceeded to read stories and make craft items.
Miss Frances, who was married but had no children, went on to become NBC's supervisor of children's programs.
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