Class of 2018

Honorees

On Thursday November 8, 2018 in Dublin, Ohio, 20 Ohio Veterans were inducted into the Hall of Fame Class of 2018. The bronze plaques representing each of the classes inducted are permanently on display at the Vern Riffe Building, 2nd Floor located at 77 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215.
Fredric L. Abrams

Warren County
United States Air Force Veteran

Fredric Abrams, 75, of Warren County, served in the U.S. Air Force in the Vietnam and Gulf wars. As a member of the Dayton Rotary since 1993, Fred has been a member of the Board of Directors and led both the Education and Environment/Health committees. His most impactful Rotary role has been as his club's Manager of International Projects. In Kenya, he established a sanctuary for AIDS orphans rescued from Africa’s most dangerous slum. In Nigeria, he provided solar-powered boreholes providing clean and safe drinking water, improved sanitation, outfitted and equipped a clinic, and introduced a science curriculum in the high school. Fred was honored twice as Outstanding Member of the Year by the Rotary Club of Dayton and was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship. He has authored four books: one dealing with transforming grief after the death of a spouse, one on finding contentment in life and two teaching children the value of adopting rescue dogs. He is a named inventor on 17 patents involving thermoplastic composite compounding and product manufacturing, and helped found two companies utilizing the technology. Fred owns a consulting company that provided project management training across the Federal Executive Branch and was a primary consultant to the Federal Aviation Administration. While president of the Montgomery County Historical Society (MCHS), he led the efforts to secure more than three million artifacts from the NCR collection and secured the donation of a building making MCHS one of the largest historic archives in the Midwest. He spent 20 years as a Boy Scout leader and was an Honor Flight Guardian for a World War II veteran.
Ronald L. Albers

Franklin County
United States Air Force Veteran

Ronald Albers, 71, of Franklin County, served in the U.S. Air Force in the Vietnam and Gulf wars. His last duty assignment was at the U.S. military base in France. Since retiring, Ron has returned to France 12 times and is the only American member of a French organization that dedicates monuments and plans ceremonies to honor U.S. aircrew killed there during World War II. French mayors have applauded his efforts and have presented him the keys to 11 cities. Ron is a life member of Motts Military Museum and in 2005 joined the Board of Trustees. He oversees the museum’s memorial brick garden, spearheads fundraising efforts and serves as the Aide de Camp to the founder/director. In 2015, Ron and his two sons financed a Motts Museum memorial to honor the 26 members of Columbus-based Lima Company who were killed in action in Iraq in 2005. Ron was a member of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. for 12 years, holding offices at the local, regional and national levels. A resident of Gahanna since 1984, Ron has served as an officer or board member on numerous commissions and associations in the city including the City Improvement Commission, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Academy Ridge Community Association. He is a life member of the National Guard Association, VFW Post 2505, Disabled American Veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America and Ohio National Guard Enlisted Association. In 2015, Ron was inducted into the Brainerd Minnesota School System Hall of Fame for accomplishments following graduation 50 years ago.
Cassie B. Barlow

Greene County
United States Air Force Veteran

Cassie B. Barlow, 52, of Greene County, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1988 to 2014. Cassie is laser-focused on military and veteran initiatives through a variety of avenues. As the Director of Aerospace Professional Development for the Southwestern Council on Higher Education, Cassie assists veterans with job readiness and placement as well as higher education course structure and post-graduation options. Cassie founded and chairs the Greater Miami Valley myVeteran Community, a consortium of non-profit and governmental agencies focused on improving services to veterans in the Dayton region. She also is the creator of the Veterans Moving Forward Annual Resource Fair, which is now in its third year. As a Greater Dayton United Way volunteer, Cassie spearheaded a research program which will result in VetsLink – a 24/7/365 access to resources and information for veterans across Miami Valley. She served as the Executive Director for the Ohio Federal Jobs Commission, which developed a plan to outline the importance of federal military installations in Ohio with a veteran workforce component focusing on attraction and skill development for federal jobs. Cassie also is the president of the Miami Valley Military Affairs Association, the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce Military and Government Affairs Committee, and The Abilities Connection. Cassie earned the following degrees: bachelor’s degree in psychology from Georgetown University; master’s degree in clinical psychology from Chapman University; Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Rice University; master’s degree in Military Operational Art and Science from Air Command and Staff College and master’s degree in national security from Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University.
Francis Leroy Clendenen
Francis Leroy Clendenen
(posthumous)

Licking County
United States Army Veteran

Francis Leroy Clendenen, of Licking County, served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He passed away at the age of 74 in 2018. Leroy was known throughout Ohio and beyond for his energy, wisdom, leadership and as a staunch advocate for veterans. After separating from the service, Leroy was hired as the Head of Building/Property and Fleet Management for WBNS in 1981. He was employed there 25 years. In 2008, Leroy was appointed to the Ohio Department of Veterans Services Advisory Committee and served as chair of the committee from 2009-2017. He also served as chair of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame Executive Committee. Since 1986, his leadership also was exercised in a number of positions at the VFW Department of Ohio where he served as Chief of Staff, District Commander, Volunteer Services Representative to the Chillicothe VA Hospital, historian and photographer for 12 years, member of the Founders Day program and Co-Chair of the VFW 100 Year Celebration. He answered the call of volunteer public service from other community officials including the Ohio War Orphans Scholarship Board as an appointee of Gov. John Kasich and the Columbus Mayor’s Advisory Board as an appointee of former Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman. Leroy also served the VFW Post 9473 as Commander, Chaplain, Community Event Liaison and a member of the Color Guard. He served District 11 as Commander, Quartermaster and District Chief of Staff. Leroy served on the boards of the Dublin Arts Council Steering Committee for the Pulitzer Prize Recipient Eddie Adams: Vietnam Exhibit, the American Eagles Motorcycle Touring Club and the Beechwood Trails Subdivision.
Dean Cooper

Lawrence County
United States Army Veteran

Orvil Dean Cooper, 88, of Lawrence County, served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. As a Rome Township Trustee for 33 years, Dean was pivotal in securing many of the township’s firsts – including neighborhood water and sewer infrastructure, a maintenance building, a fire truck and two new firehouses. Dean’s can-do and positive attitude often comes to the mind of the township’s residents. Dean has a reputation of getting things done for the greater good. He spearheaded successful fire levy campaigns, raised funds to purchase fire safety equipment, secured land from the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) to build a VFW post, and secured easements from residents for the installation of water lines and fire hydrants. He is a life member of VFW Post 6878 and has been a contributing member for 49 years; he has served as Commander and a member of the Veterans Memorial Park committee and Honor Guard. His commitment to community continues through volunteerism with the Rome Volunteer Fire Department, the Kentucky-Ohio-West Virginia Planning Commission, president of the Fairland High School Band Boosters and president of the Fairland High School Athletic Boosters. After his military service, Dean joined the Huntington Publishing Company and dedicated 44 years to the company as an advertising service manager, printer and carpenter. He has served the Lawrence County Veterans Service Commission for more than 40 years. In this role, he spearheaded the effort to rename the Courthouse Square to Veterans Square, assisted in obtaining a Soldier’s Plot section in the Miller Memorial Garden Cemetery and established VA healthcare clinics.
Haraz N. Ghanbari

Wood County
United States Army & Navy Veteran

Haraz N. Ghanbari, 37, of Wood County, served in the U.S. Army and currently serves as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy. His span of service includes deployment during Operations Joint Forge, Enduring Freedom and Inherent Resolve. Enlisting as a 17-year-old high school senior in 1999, Haraz volunteered for deployment to Bosnia and upon returning, completed his bachelor’s degree at Kent State University in Visual Journalism. At 23 years old, he became the youngest Associated Press staff photojournalist in the Washington Bureau, where he was assigned as a member of the White House Press Corps. In 2008, he was recommended for a direct commission into the Navy Reserve and President Obama administered his oath in a private ceremony in the Oval Office; he subsequently volunteered for deployment to Afghanistan. In August 2012, he returned to Ohio to assist transitioning service members, veterans and their family members working toward college degrees. Today, he serves as the Director of Military and Veteran Affairs at the University of Toledo. He volunteers with numerous organizations such as Veterans Matter, which helps to house homeless veterans across the country, and has served as the master of ceremonies for the Community Salutes events where newly enlisted members of the military are recognized. Haraz has served on the Boy Scouts of America Erie Shores Council Executive Board, Cedar Creek Church safety team and safety committee. He is a member of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the American Legion, and life member of the VFW and the Military Officer Association of America. In 2017, he was elected to the Perrysburg City Council.
James L. Gibson

Guernsey County
United States Navy Veteran

James Lee Gibson, 69, of Guernsey County, served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. Upon his discharge from active duty in 1971, Jim began a 31-year civilian career with General Telephone and Electronics (GTE). Following his retirement in 2002, Jim accelerated his community activities and volunteerism. During his 16-year membership with the Guernsey County Veterans Council, he served as Commander for 13 years, has assisted with 1,500 funerals and participates in parades and special events for the Guernsey County Military Homecoming Celebration, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Jim is involved in the Cambridge City School District as a mentor and leader. As an accomplished musician, Jim offers free music lessons to students and assists the band director. He re-established the proper posting and retirement of the colors at high school football games and founded the Cambridge High School Alumni Jazz Band. Jim also served on the Board of Education from 2010 to 2017. As a leader in the Cambridge Kiwanis for 17 years, he founded the “Veterans in Schools” program to help students learn about the contributions of our nation’s veterans, he instituted a volunteer mentor program for at-risk students and participated in 200 other service projects. He performs with the Muskingum Valley Symphonic Winds and is a past member of the Zanesville Memorial and Cambridge City bands. Jim is a volunteer at Cardinal Place Assisted Living where he conducts a worship service twice a month and has organized programs for patriotic holidays. As a member of Christ United Methodist Church, Jim is a Sunday school teacher, youth praise team leader, board of trustees’ member and a trumpet player.
Paul D. Haller

Jackson County
United States Navy Veteran

Paul Haller, 59, of Jackson County, served in the U.S. Navy during the Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Paul was an educator for 13 years before becoming a Jackson County Commissioner, now serving in his second term. As President of the Board of Commissioners, he has been instrumental in retaining and attracting jobs through many projects including the James A. Rhodes Airport Terminal Building. He also secured grants for business expansions that equate to $1.4 million in capital investments. Paul’s work as co-founder and chairman of the Buckeye Hero Hunt is known throughout Ohio as a model program benefiting Ohio’s disabled veterans. Paul testified to state legislators for the Ohio Veterans ID card and was selected by lawmakers to the committee that designed the ID cards that benefit our veterans today all over Ohio. Paul also is active in the Jackson Rotary and Elks organizations and is a life member of the VFW and American Legion. For 20 years, he has served as a non-pay auxiliary officer for the Jackson Sheriff Office and Jackson Police Department. Paul attained the rank of Eagle Scout in 1978 and currently serves as an Eagle Board of Review Member. In 2017, he received the National Eagle Scout Association Outstanding Eagle Scout Award for his personal and professional contributions to the community and the region. He also is a recipient of the 2015 Founders Award from the Archon Alumni Association, University of Rio Grande. This award is given to an alumnus who has demonstrated dedication and service to the Fraternity, the University of Rio Grande and to southeastern Ohio.
Ronald J. Hartman

Clermont County
United States Army Veteran

Ronald Hartman, 71, of Clermont County, served in the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War. Ron has been a member of the American Legion Post 72 for 46 years and is in his 15th year as Commander. Ron also has been an American Legion life member since 1993, an AMVETS life member since 1990 and a four-term AMVETS Post 131 Commander. He is a volunteer at the Cincinnati VA Hospital and served as vice president of Joseph House, which provides care, housing, food and clothing to homeless veterans. As a skilled fundraiser and philanthropist, Ron has chaired multiple fundraisers for veterans and children in need and has spearheaded levy campaigns for safety services. His peers have recognized him with several honors including the American Legion Department of Ohio Big Brown Jug Award for membership and the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky approved his commission as a colonel based on civic duties, volunteer work, project management and dedication to fellow citizens and the community. It is considered the highest title of honor in the Commonwealth. Ron served the Village of Newtown community as a councilmember, Board of Zoning committee member and Beautification of Newtown committee member. He has supported the police and fire departments with monetary donations, assisted Inter-Parish Ministries with food donations for local families, conducted memorial services at Flag Spring Cemetery and assisted the village with the dedication of the Veterans Memorial. Ron is the lone surviving member of the committee formed to create the Pearl Harbor Memorial erected on the banks of the Ohio River in New Richmond.
Joseph A. Machado

Fairfield County
United States Army Veteran

Joseph Machado, 80, of Fairfield County, served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Joe is an active veteran who supports his community and veteran organizations. Joe graduated from Harvard University in 1960. He was both a student and instructor on the staff and faculty of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, where he also was a thesis advisor to the first class of students earning the accredited Master of Military Art and Science degree. Joe served White House Communications as Chief of the Presidential Support Office for the Reagan Administration. After military retirement, Joe led information and computer security programs for U.S. government clients in the metropolitan Washington area. Joe has been active in community volunteering throughout his entire career beginning while on active duty in the United States and in Europe. His commitment to community began with the Boy Scout program and the American Red Cross. Joe moved to Baltimore, Ohio, in 2007 and immediately established Veterans’ Ministry programs at his church. He also volunteers with the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Community Watch Program and is a Board Member of the Baltimore Downtown Restoration Committee, where he assists with the renovation of the Victoria Opera House. Joe is a Board Member of Honor Flight Columbus and manages the community outreach program. He has been a Guardian on 35 Honor Flights for 75 WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans. Joe is a Board Member and Past President of the Central Ohio Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America and a life member of MOAA, American Legion Post 637, VFW Post 3761, the Korean War Veterans Association and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1045.
Robert P. Milich

Mahoning County
United States Air Force Veteran

Judge Robert Milich, 76, of Mahoning County, served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. Robert graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1978 from the University of Akron. In 1980, he began his career in the law department of the City of Youngtown and succeeded to Director of Law in 1994. In 1998, he was appointed to Municipal Court by Gov. George Voinovich. He continued in this role until his retirement in 2017. Most notable is his service as presiding judge of the Youngstown Municipal Veterans Treatment Court (YMVTC) from its inception in 2011 to his retirement from the bench in December 2017. Robert was instrumental in developing the court using counselors, mentors and community social workers to assist veterans in meaningful rehabilitation. The YMVTC was the second such court in the state of Ohio and one of 50 in the nation with a primary mission of treatment and rehabilitation of non-violent misdemeanor offenders. The program has become a model within Ohio for treating and rehabilitating veterans. Since its inception six years ago, 63 veterans have participated in the courts’ treatment program and 48 veterans have graduated from the program. The court convened twice a month and Judge Milich personally oversaw each case, thus ensuring maximum positive results. His success garnered him an appointment to the Ohio Attorney General Task Force on Criminal Justice and Mental Illness for Veterans Courts and Military Affairs Subcommittee. Robert is also a member of the cabinet to establish the Youngstown State University Veterans Resource Center. The facility, the only of its kind in Ohio, serves veteran students with counseling, a computer lab, job placement and recreation.
Charles Murray
Charles L. Murray
(posthumous)

Franklin County
United States Army Veteran

Charles Murray of Franklin County served in the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War. He passed away at the age of 81 in 2018. After military retirement, Chuck was employed at the Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center in Columbus for nine years. During his tenure, he was selected to help organize a highly visible Veterans Administration Human Radiation Records Review in Washington, D.C. His commitment to community was evident through his volunteer roles. He served as an officer of The Brookside Estate Civic Association for 24 years, organizing events and coordinating beautification projects. Perry Township Trustees appointed Chuck to several local committees. Chuck was an adult leader for Cub Scout, Boy Scout and Explorer Programs, and a leader and counselor with various councils of the Boy Scouts of America. He dedicated much of his time to Woodworkers of Central Ohio and Central Ohio Woodturners. He personally produced more than 2,000 wooden toys for Columbus charities. As a volunteer, he also created 500 wooden pens for deployed troops and 100 flag display boxes in honor of victims of 9/11. Chuck and his fellow volunteers built and donated more than 10,000 dressers, 5,000 bed frames and hundreds of kitchen tables to Mid-Ohio Furniture Bank. Chuck also participated on 56 Honor Flights and organized the first all-Purple Heart Recipient Vietnam Veterans Honor Flight from Columbus. He participated in Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery in 2010 and participated in the Memorial Service at the Pentagon honoring those who lost their lives on 9/11. Recognizing his lifetime of achievement and dedication to his community, the City of Worthington recognized Chuck as the Grand Marshal of its Memorial Day Parade.
Merle J. Pratt

Franklin County
United States Navy Veteran

Merle J. Pratt, 70, of Franklin County, served in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War. Merle served as the Veterans’ Liaison to seven of Ohio’s Attorneys General during his 26-year career while holding many positions such as the Administrative Assistant to Attorney General Tony Celebrezze and he retired as the Director of Constituent Services in 2009. Gov. Ted Strickland appointed Merle as chair of a committee to formulate policies, procedures and rules to govern the newly elevated cabinet level agency of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services. The impact on veterans and their families has evolved through his lobbying to institute, increase or maintain veteran and fraternal organizations’ rights and benefits. He also was very instrumental in having property taxes exempted for veteran and fraternal organizations. As a member of the Franklin County Veterans Service Commission, Merle created and taught a 10-month grammar course to improve financial case briefs. He is a trustee and past president of the Military/Veterans Educational Foundation, a life member and past president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 670 and a life member and past Commander of the American Legion Columbus Post 82. He also is a member of the Masons, Eagles, Elks and Moose lodges. In 2004, Merle received the Silver Helmet Award (aka the Veterans Oscar), the highest award given by the AMVETS National Department, and the AMVETS Department of Ohio named Merle 2015 AMVET of the Year. In 2010, when Merle was the AMVETS Department of Ohio State Commander, President Barack Obama selected him to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at a press conference to introduce his Health Care Program.
Fredrick L. Pumroy

Greene County
United States Air Force Veteran

Fredrick Louis Pumroy, 75, of Greene County, served in the United States Air Force in the Vietnam War. In 1985, Fred founded a consulting business to help disadvantaged companies do business with the government. He accomplished several studies for major acquisition programs such as the F-16, F-15, C-17 and Global Hawk. Fred is involved in public and community service efforts with the City of Fairborn and Greene County. Fred served on the Fairborn City Council from 1999-2007 and as Fairborn Deputy Mayor from 2008-2009. His areas of focus included special projects to improve conditions for low-income families. He continues to lead special projects such as Christmas in Action to repair homes for low-income owners and Christmas Project where he coordinates the efforts of churches, organization and individuals to support low-income families at Christmastime. He helped establish a community center for people in need and works with the Dayton Humanity for Habitat. He is a member of the Fairborn Lions Club, Fairborn Rotary Club, Military Officers Association of America, Greene County Community Foundation and Greene County Airport Authority Boards. Fred is a volunteer driver for Fairborn Senior Center and served as a reading tutor for the Fairborn Elementary School. Among his many awards, Fred was named 2015 Fairborn Senior Citizen of the Year, received the 2011 Fairborn Chamber of Commerce Huelsman Award and the 2017 Daughters of the American Revolution Excellence in Community Service Award. Fred received a Bachelor of Science degree from Ball State University and a Master of Science degree from the University of Southern California.
Clifford Riley

Clermont County
United States Army Veteran

Clifford Riley, 74, of Clermont County, served in the United States Army in the Vietnam War. Following his military service, Cliff worked in the insurance industry for 47 years, working mostly with veterans, coordinating their veteran benefits with their employment and social security benefits. Cliff has successfully lobbied state and federal legislators for veterans. He lobbied for the Agent Orange Act of 1991 and continued to lobby to add other conditions. In 2016, his lobbying efforts helped successfully pass the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015-2016. Cliff served on the Ohio Board of Regents panel and advanced the values of keeping social studies in the schools and teaching future leaders about past wars, the veterans’ experiences and the lessons learned. Cliff was instrumental in the creation of Clermont County’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and each year leads a service to recognize the 513 Cincinnati area Vietnam Veterans who lost their lives. As president of the Buckeye State Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America, he led the Agent Orange Seminars across Ohio. At the request of the Ohio Attorney General’s office, his council sponsored a Continuing Education class for Ohio’s attorneys on PTSD and Veterans Courts. Recently, he coordinated the VA pilot program on HEP-C causes and treatments in Ohio. Currently, Cliff is Ohio State President for Vietnam Veterans of America, in his 17th year as a Clermont County Veteran Service Commissioner and sits on the Ohio Department of Veterans Services Advisory Board. In 2008, he received the Vietnam Veterans of America - Buckeye State Council’s Veteran of the Year award and has been recognized by the Ohio House and Senate for his veteran advocacy.
Dana L. Robinson-Street

Franklin County
United States Navy Veteran

Dr. Dana Robinson-Street, 50, of Franklin County, served in the United States Navy in Desert Storm. Since retiring from the Navy, Dana has devoted her post-military years to helping improve the lives of veterans, ensuring that they have access to services and benefits and ensuring that they have a healthy transition from military service. As a medical provider and community service advocate, she works to improve the lives of veterans from all eras of military service. In addition to providing medical care to patients, Dana conducts research on the rapidly expanding challenges of America’s opioid crisis. She serves as the manager of a primary care/urgent care clinic and provides medical care to military members and residents of Greater Columbus. Dana is a recognized subject matter expert on the challenges veterans face when transitioning from military service back into civilian life. She has lobbied on Capitol Hill on behalf of veterans on at least six different occasions. She served as the Delegate Chair for the Women Veterans Rock Civic Leadership Institute’s Health and Wellness delegation. Her “Scooters for Veterans Campaign” has provided more than $12,000 worth of scooters to mobility-impaired veterans free of charge. Dana is a life member of the VFW Chapter 10523 and the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce. She serves as President of the Women Veterans Rock National Leadership Team for the State of Ohio. She works tirelessly on her current passion – to bring a veterans home to the Greater Columbus region. Among her many degrees, Dana has earned a Doctorate in Nursing Practice from the University of Alabama; and a Master of Science in Nursing and a Bachelor of Science, Cum Laude, from the University of Milwaukee.
Ronald A. Schwachenwald

Lorain County
United States Army Veteran

Ronald Schwachenwald, 82, of Lorain County, served in the United States Army in the Vietnam War. His professional career includes Military Affairs, Education and Industry Liaison for Congressman Louis Stokes and Program Director for U.S. Army Aviation and Troop Command in St. Louis, and the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Ron is one of the founding board officers of the Greater Cleveland Fisher House and was instrumental in developing a capital campaign that raised more than $3 million. The Fisher House Foundation matched and doubled that contribution to bring two Fisher Homes to the Cleveland community. As President of the local chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA), he personally co-sponsored John Carroll University’s ROTC Leadership Series. After his term as chapter president, Ron served as the AUSA state of Ohio president. Ron has served two terms as the Board President of the Joint Veterans Counsel of Cuyahoga County. He rejuvenated the Board and helped to extend its visibility with major community awareness events including the Veteran of the Year Awards Luncheon, the Vietnam Anniversary Recognition Event (March 29) and the Flag Day event held at the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Most importantly, he played a lead role in bringing back to Cleveland – after a 40-year absence – a Veterans Day Parade in downtown. Ron is still going strong – even after many of his contemporaries have retired from volunteering. He leads by example and his personal drive and magnetism help him grow an active coterie of involved veteran community members.
Douglas D. Theaker

Richland County
United States Navy Veteran

Douglas David Theaker, 82, of Richland County, served in the United States Navy during the Korean War. After serving in the military, Doug used his GI Bill to earn his degrees: a bachelor’s degree in social studies from Ashland University and a Master of Science in Education from the University of Akron. After his retirement from education, he served as the Director of Richland County Job and Family Services. Yet, his passion was to help children from K to 12 and he responded with a “yes” when his peers called on him to become a school board member. He devoted 39 years to the education of children; nine years as an American History teacher at Ontario High school and 30 years serving on boards of education including the Ohio School Board Association, the Ontario Board of Education and the Pioneer Career and Technology Board of Education. Doug is the longest serving member of the Richland County Veterans Service Commission – since 1983 – and is currently president of the board. Doug is active in every military post in the county: AMVETS 26 and 31 for 40 years, KWVA Chapter 51 for 20 years and serves as president, Richland County Joint Veterans Council for 30 years and is past-president, American Legion Post 16 for 20 years. For more than 20 years, he has helped raise the flags at the Richland County Courthouse and he has attended every Memorial Day Parade since he returned from the Navy. Doug served as the Memorial Day Grand Marshal. He also is involved in United Way, Boy Scouts Council, Kiwanis and is a 28-year host of the WMFD Rehab Telethon fundraiser.
E.J. Thomas

Franklin County
United States Air Force Veteran

E.J. Thomas, 66, of Franklin County, served in the United States Air Force from 1973-2005. E.J. is the President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity-MidOhio. As executive of this top-ranked Habitat affiliate nationwide, he initiated programs that offer veterans discounted mortgages at 0% interest and assistance with remodeling existing homes for handicap accessibility and energy efficiency. E.J. served as State Representative for Ohio’s 27th District for eight terms, serving as Chair of both the Ways & Means and Finance & Appropriations committees. He continues his advocacy work with Habitat’s Government Relations & Advocacy Office in Washington, D.C., on behalf of low-income homeowners and veterans in particular. E.J. currently serves as a Capital University Trustee and Chair of the Integrity & Compliance Committee, Co-Founder & Chair of the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio, and Immediate Past Chair of the Human Service Chamber of Franklin County. Community service also includes the New Albany Architectural Review Board, Partnerships Make a Difference Advisory Board, president of the Ford Tri-Motor Heritage Foundation in Port Clinton, and chair of HUD’s Housing Counseling Federal Advisory Committee. E.J. formerly served on the boards of the Columbus Zoo, the local chapter of the American Cancer Society and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, where he was Co-Founder & Chair of “Picnic with the Pops.” The Central Ohio business community recognized E.J. as CEO Magazine’s “CEO of the Year” for large nonprofit organizations. Under his leadership, Habitat-MidOhio was selected by The Columbus Foundation to receive its single, annual award for Outstanding Performance by a nonprofit organization in 2012.
Robert J. Wilhelm

Guernsey County
United States Marine Corps Vet

Robert J. Wilhelm, 87, of Guernsey County, served in the United States Marine Corps in the Korean War. Upon his discharge from the Marine Corps, Bob attended the University of Dayton on the GI Bill and earned a degree in electrical engineering. He served in various positions with NCR Corporation before retiring in 1993 with 51 years of accumulated service. He was responsible for the design and production coordination of NCR’s first electronic cash register. Bob has served as the volunteer Regional Coordinator for the AARP Tax-Aide Program for 20 years and is President of the Guernsey/Noble/Monroe Counties United Way. As a member of the Salvation Army Advisory Board for 26 years, Bob served as part of a Guernsey County Team at Ground Zero providing meals and support to first responders following the 9/11 attack. He is the coordinator of the Summer Sack Lunch Program for Children at Risk and Chairman of the Share and Care Program established to meet the emergent needs of individuals and families in the Guernsey County area. He is on the Banquet/Auction Committee for the Living Word Outdoor Drama and served as Chairman of the Citizen’s Committee for the operating levy of the Golden Rule School. Bob has served as a deacon, elder, trustee and president of the Corporation for Unity Presbyterian Church. Bob is the 2015 recipient of the Distinguished Public Service Award from the Cambridge Area Chamber of Commerce and 2002 Person of the Year Award from the Daily Jeffersonian and the Ohio Senate. He also received the 2005 AARP Andrus Award for Community Service and the Award for Dedicated Service to Handicapped Persons from the Guernsey County Board of Developmental Disabilities.