October 24, 2002

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Verna M. Papania

Verna M. Papania of Springfield died Saturday morning, Oct. 19, at Mercy St. John’s Center. She was 92 years of age.

Born May 16, 1910, in Springfield, she was the daughter of Joseph and Anna Papania.

She retired as an executive secretary with International Harvester Company after approximately 40 years of service. She was a member of the St. Teresa Catholic Church.

She is survived by two sisters, Connie Wood, Springfield, and Frances Amato, Celina; a brother, Stephan Papania, Yellow Springs; six nephews, Jerry, Joe and Michael Amato, David and Alan Wood and Jerry Papania; a niece, Mary Ann (Wood) Mazur; numerous great-nieces and nephews; and a special friend, Jean Mader.

Mass was held Tuesday, Oct. 22, at St. Teresa Church, with burial in Calvary Church. Memorial donations may be made to Mercy Hospice.

Dorothy Hilbert

Dorothy Hilbert of Yellow Springs died unexpectedly of an apparent heart attack at about 6 a.m. Friday at her home. She was 91 years of age.

She was active to the end of her last full day. Thursday evening she played cello in an amateur string quartet that has met weekly in her home for more than 20 years.

She was found Saturday by a friend who was delivering labels for mailing the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship’s newsletter.

Born in Dayton on Sept. 15, 1911, Dorothy was the daughter of Clara Broenstrup and William Otto Hilbert. She grew up in Dayton and graduated from the Antioch Academy, a private high school in Yellow Springs, in 1928.

She earned a B.A. from Antioch College in 1933 and an M.A. from Ohio State University in 1936.

In 1935, she married Charles Merchant; they divorced without rancor 10 years later.

After the separation she worked for the Social Security Administration in Marion, Ohio, and became assistant manager of the Social Security office in Springfield in 1961.

She retired and moved to Yellow Springs in 1976 and soon became one of the most active volunteers in the village.

In 1977, Dorothy was one of five incorporators of Friends Health Care Association, which operates Friends Care Community. “She did an enormous amount of work,” said Paul Wagner, who chaired the group at its start. “The rest of us were all employed full time. We couldn’t have done it without her.”

She then served two terms on the Friends Care board of trustees, and continued on as secretary to the board. She also worked as a volunteer, repairing residents’ clothing and tending flowers at the Care Center. Last year, Friends Care honored her with its first lifetime achievement award.

She served a term as secretary of the Greene County League of Women Voters and edited its newsletter for several years.

She also edited and typed the Yellow Springs Senior Citizens newsletter for several years and had been contributing a monthly column of health tips to recent issues.

She was the first Yellow Springs member of the committee that originated the Greene County Women’s Hall of Fame.

“Dorothy was an example for all of us,” Dr. Carl Hyde said during the local Quaker Meeting’s Sunday worship. “She saw what needed to be done, and she did it.”

Dorothy was active in the local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, which took charge of arranging for cremation of her remains.

She was preceded in death by two sisters, Wilma Lantz of Dayton and Ava English of Yellow Springs.

Surviving relatives include nephews Ken Champney and his wife, Peg, of Yellow Springs, and Eric Miller of Dayton, and niece Annette Hamilton of Green Bay, Wis., who is known to many youth in Yellow Springs as an auditions judge of their piano playing.

A memorial service will be held in late December or early January, at the Unitarian Fellowship Meeting House in Goes.

Her dog, Rusty, is staying with Ken and Peg Champney in the Vale, but “she’s not a country dog,” says Ken. “The wild outdoors intimidates her. She’d much rather sit on your lap and cuddle.”

The Champneys are looking for a suitable home for Rusty.

William DeGrove Baker

William DeGrove Baker, a resident of Yellow Springs since 1970, died on Friday, Oct. 18, at Friends Care Community after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 78.

He moved to Dayton in 1968 when he was hired as dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Wright State University. A few years later, he returned to his first love: teaching American literature and creative writing. His particular interests were Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, Gertrude Stein and Sherwood Anderson, about whom he wrote many articles for academic and literary journals.

He was also the author of more than a dozen books, among them Focus on Prose, Reading Skills (originally published in 1953, it had sold half a million copies when the third edition came out in 1989), and, most recently, The LCT Story: Victory in Europe Plus the Letters of a Young Ensign, which told of his experiences during World War II as the captain of a landing craft, tank, in the Mediterranean.

Since 1985, he had served as a trustee of the Greene County Public Library. He was president of the board from 1989 to 1991, and in 1993 was named Trustee of the Year by the Ohio Library Council. The award recognized Baker’s work in support of intellectual freedom, including a series of eight articles he published in Ohio Libraries magazine.

In 1985, he also cofounded, with the late Judson Jerome, the Antioch Writers’ Workshop, which is still flourishing. And in 1983, he was a member of the board that organized the Chamber Music Yellow Springs concert series, now in its 20th season.

After his retirement from teaching in the mid ’90s, Baker actively pursued his interest in genealogy. Research into the works of his great-great-grandfather William Henry Baker, a portrait painter who emigrated from England to the U.S. and founded what later became the Brooklyn Academy of Art, resulted in a biography, published in a very limited edition for members of his family. Baker’s quest turned up many paintings, in museums and private collections, and photographs of which were reproduced in this book.

Baker was born on March 5, 1924, in Buffalo. After his discharge from the U.S. Navy in 1946, he earned his undergraduate degree at Hobart College, his master’s at the University of Chicago and his doctorate at Northwestern University.

He taught at several colleges and universities before coming to Wright State, including a year (1962–63) as director of the Center for American Studies in Milan, Italy, and several years as academic vice president of Rockford College in Illinois.

He was a passionate lover of literature, music, theater and art. His love of reading led him to start a Great Books discussion group that meets regularly at the Yellow Springs Library, and he was a member of an informal discussion group that meets monthly in local residents’ homes. He was also an organizer of a small group of academics from around Ohio and Michigan who have met annually for 20 years at different places around the state to share their interests in literature, history and art.

In recent years Baker was a regular member of the group that gathered each morning at The Emporium for coffee and lively conversation.

He is survived by his wife of almost 30 years, Jane Hill Baker; three children, Pamela Baker of Chicago, William B. Baker of Buena Vista, Colo., and Priscilla Walker of Boulder, Colo.; their mother, Lois Tukey Baker of Chicago; two stepchildren, David Hill and Sidney Leonard, both of Massachusetts; a sister, Janet Swearer, of Providence, R.I.; five grandchildren; and three nephews.

Contributions in memory of William Baker may be made to the Yellow Springs Community Foundation (P.O. Box 55, Yellow Springs, OH 45387). Plans for a memorial celebration will be announced soon.