GALLIPOLIS — This week, the Gallipolis Daily Tribune will be looking back over the past year, highlighting memorable moments and stories from 2016.
This review begins with stories that took place January through March this year, with more months, and stories, to follow this week.
The year began with the birth of Scarlett Grace Gruber, who just happened to be the first baby born in 2016 at Holzer Health System’s campus in Gallipolis. She was born at 3:03 a.m. Jan. 1 at 7 pounds, 14 ounces, and she was 22 inches long. She is the daughter of Jamie and Robin Gruber, of Bidwell.
Also in January, the Gallipolis Daily Tribune paid tribute to the late George “Ray” McKinniss, a local man who passed away Dec. 29, 2015 after battling cancer. The tribute went over McKinniss’ life and career, which included when he joined Bob Evans Farms Inc. in 1980. He served in a variety of capacities before becoming the Rio Grande farm manager in 1995.
McKinniss was chiefly known right up to his passing as the farm manager of the Bob Evans Farm in Rio Grande. Many people also knew him through a variety of volunteer activities in the area.
According to colleague Dave Smalley, McKinniss often assisted with the Rio Grande Memorial Association in its hosting of the village’s annual bean dinner. Smalley credited McKinniss in helping provide materials, advice and other resources to make the bean dinner what it is today. Smalley says Bob Evans Farms have been integral to the bean dinner’s survival since 1971. Smalley personally credited McKinniss as being the reason he settled in Rio Grande when he arrived at the university as a student athlete.
According to Jim Noe, Bob Evans Farms area director, it was “on the Bob Evans Farm that Ray found his true passion and made the farm what it is today. Ray led the farm team with dedication and compassion for over 20 years. He loved bringing people to the farm and recalling the history. He was just a great storyteller. Ray was passionate about bringing people to our area.”
Perhaps more importantly, though, close friend Bob Hood said McKinniss was a devoted father and grandfather. He was known to often be involved with his children’s sports programs. Hood said that while many people can be remembered for their activities and interests, McKinniss should be remembered as a family man despite being an iconic figure with Bob Evans Farms.
“Everything he did, he did for his family first,” Hood said.
Also in January, Gallipolis City Commission appointed Roger Brandeberry as a commissioner to fill an empty seat for a term that will last the next two years. In September of the previous year, Jay Cremeens resigned after serving as vice president of the Gallipolis City Commission. At that time, he had roughly two years left in his term.
Brandeberry is a lifelong Gallipolis native and only moved away shortly to attend Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., to receive a degree in criminal justice with minors in history and sociology. He started a career in law enforcement in 1979 with the Gallipolis Police Department. In 1993, he was promoted to police chief. He retired from serving as police chief April 22, 2005. Brandeberry said he also had 15 years of experience with the Gallipolis Volunteer Fire Department.
January also saw the arrival of Jim Tressel to Gallia County. The Youngstown State University president and former head football coach at Ohio State University told a capacity crowd Thursday night at the University of Rio Grande’s Davis University Center that “life’s a lot more fun when you first remind yourself of all the blessings you have.” Tressel was the keynote speaker during the 79th Gallia County Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet.
In February, Pilot Dan Drennan, of “Pilots and Paws” collected local animals and returned them to New York to transport them to a waiting rescue. Drennan had made several trips to the Ohio Valley region to continue with his mission of providing homeless animals with a chance at a new life. On this particular trip, Drennan collected six pit bull puppies and a Labrador mix pup. The pit bull pups were discovered in a ditch and were nursed back to health by Patty Jones, a local foster volunteer with Friends of Gallia County’s Animals rescue group.
In March, the Gallia County Health Department announced it had collected and destroyed more than 10,000 contaminated needles in its syringe exchange program. According to health department nurses, the department began a syringe exchange program aimed at harm reduction and disease prevention in August 2015. The program serves as an outreach to a community of injection drug users and their friends and family. It promotes education and safety throughout the community.
March saw voters vote down the municipal income 1 percent tax increase, 598 to 303, and approved the increased liquor license option, 503 to 403, while Gallia County residents once again voted down the fair relocation sales tax of one-quarter of 1 percent increase, 4,338 to 4,090.
Also, Tamela Simpson, 34, disappeared March 14 from her family’s home in Cheshire. Her sisters say that Simpson walked across State Route 7 to the Ohio River to relieve stress from a variety of sources in her life after a discussion with family. The residence was a short distance from the water’s edge and easily seen from the front of the home. The sisters said it was a common practice with the family to sit by the water and clear their heads during times of difficulty.
Simpson’s sisters say family members saw Tamela near the water’s edge and believed they saw her enter the river after potentially slipping and heard a sound potentially corresponding with the action. After her brother went to check on her, they could not find her. Simpson’s remains were later found along the Ohio River in Ironton and identified in December.
Gallia County veterans gathered in Gallipolis in March for a motorcade and special ceremony marking 50 years since the first American military involvement in the Vietnam War. Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4464 and American Legion Lafayette Post 27 led the charge as community groups and veterans glided down Second Avenue and turned along Court Street before stopping on First Avenue to conduct a brief ceremony in Gallipolis City Park to remember the fallen and living for their service.
Also in March, the effort to save the 1800s home owned by a deceased and prominent Gallipolis African American landowner and constructor, John Gee, amped up. However, in the end, the home came down and the John Gee Memorial Wall was finished as part of a goodwill gesture by the new Speedway station. It was erected in remembrance of the house demolished on property which was once owned by Gee and suspected to have been constructed by him. The wall is reportedly constructed of bricks from the old home and reads, “John Gee (1798 – 1865) moved to Gallipolis, Ohio, as a young man and eventually became one of the community’s largest landowners. A skilled builder who constructed a number of buildings in Gallipolis, his success in the community is significant because he was an African American during the time of slavery. Gee used his financial resources to provide local African Americans with more opportunity and donated four acres of land to establish the Pine Street Colored Cemetery in 1860.”