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A new local history authored by Record-Courier Editor Roger J. Di Paolo has been published and just in time for the Christmas buying season.
“The Ravenna Record: The People and Events That Shaped a Community” is a compilation of stories selected from Di Paolo’s Sunday “Portage Pathways” column that focus on the Ravenna community and the lives of those who shaped it as well as others who grew up in Ravenna and achieved mightily beyond its borders.
The 414-page book was edited and designed by Justin Barber, a Ravenna native and faculty member at Stark State College of Technology in North Canton. Its price is $25, with all proceeds going to Friends of the Flagpole, the group that is raising $150,000 to repair the historic, 150-foot flagpole that stands in front of the Portage County Courthouse.
It is available for sale at locations in Ravenna, Kent and Brimfield.
Those businesses that will sell the book include: the Ravenna, Kent and Brimfield branches of Hometown Bank; the Ravenna and Kent branches of Portage Community Bank, Triangle Pharmacy in Ravenna; House of Holiday Ornaments in Ravenna; Susie K’s Cafe and Tea Room in Ravenna; Copper Kettle Antiques and Collectibles in Ravenna; McKay Bricker Gallery in Kent; and the Record-Courier, 1050 W. Main St., Kent.
Di Paolo will be available for a book-signing during Midnight Madness from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 29 in the lobby of Hometown Bank in Ravenna’s Riddle Block No. 1. Other book signings in January will take place in Ravenna at Reed Memorial Library and Portage Community Bank.
The book tells the story of Ravenna through chapters focusing on significant events and personalities from the community’s pioneer era through the 1960s.
Among those profiled are notable Ravenna natives such as William Rufus Day, who served as U.S. Secretary of State negotiating an end to the Spanish American War and then served for 20 years as a U.S. Supreme Court justice. A profile of Mary Brayton Woolridge, the Ravenna native who became a national figure in the temperance movement is included.
So is the story of Frederick Loudin, the Charlestown Township native whose ensembles of African-American singers toured the world in the late 19th century appearing before European royalty and American presidents and whose distinctive home, “Otira” still stands in Ravenna.
There’s the story of Henry Riddle, whose horse-drawn carriages and hearses gained a national customer base, and who constructed in the late 19th and early 20th century 11 brick buildings that form much of Ravenna’s downtown even today. There is the story of the Robinson family for whom Robinson Memorial Hospital is named, including one of its members who assembled the financing for the founding of Warner Bros. movie studio and served as an adviser to three presidents.
Other personalties profiled include Blanche Harris, a Ravenna native who became the first woman lawyer to make a court appearance in Portage County in the 1920s; Erastus Taylor, the hat maker who became a highly regarded Civil War general; and Floyd Forte, the son of Italian immigrants, who after graduating from West Point became a hero in World War II.
And, of course, the creation of the Ravenna Arsenal, the 21,000-acre complex that was built to provide ammunition in World War II, is chronicled.
There are also chapters on more contemporary institutions, such as Skorman’s, Carousel Dinner Theatre and Crazy Days, as well as a light-hearted look at a jail break in the 1940s in which a prisoner found his freedom by hiding in a trash barrel and waiting for a jailer to empty it.
“The book isn’t a chronological history of Ravenna,” said Di Paolo, who has written the Portage Pathways column for more than a dozen years, “but an attempt to share the story of the community through milestone events and tales of Ravenna residents.”
“I found working on ‘The Ravenna Record’ enlightening,” said Barber. “To think that people from Ravenna have made it to the highest positions in government and business in our country … It provides a sense of pride in the community.”
The book includes many photographs that have not been published before, including several from the Riddle family archives, Di Paolo said.
Friends of the Flagpole co-chairs Jack Schafer and Peggy DiPaola, said: “This 120-year-old flagpole has been witness and focal point to many of the events that shaped the Ravenna community and that are documented in Roger’s wonderful book. We’d like to thank Roger Di Paolo and David Dix for donating the book proceeds to the restoration of this Portage County landmark.”