WCHS naming collection in memory of Broehl

WCHS naming collection in memory of Broehl

Image Credit: Bill Thornhill

The schoolhouse, general store, firehouse, carriage house and Kister building on the grounds of the Wayne County Historical Society of Ohio — and the countless artifacts they house — impart a glimpse back in time.

But they’re only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath those structures lies a labyrinth of Wayne County history — the historical society’s permanent collection, largely due to the efforts of the late Dave Broehl.

In his memory the permanent collection will soon be named The David Broehl Exhibit Halls, and the public is invited to the formal dedication on Sept. 24.

Until Broehl’s initiative, 80% of the society’s permanent collection was in storage due to lack of display space. In just one of his many contributions to the society, he conceived the notion of developing the underground spaces into extensive exhibit quarters and soon set about turning his vision into a reality.

With the help of others, Broehl worked for many years — designing the spaces, raising funds, procuring contractors and moving the items — and the new halls opened in September 2018. Last fall the board of trustees voted unanimously to name the enhanced permanent collection in Broehl’s honor.

Broehl’s widow, Margo Broehl, said her husband would feel very honored. “But he also would blush at the recognition because he considered this a group effort. He had a way of getting others onboard with his endeavors, though,” she said.

Nell Reardon, who has long been involved with the society and is planning the dedication event along with Margo Broehl, Jeff Musselman and Bob Everett, agreed. “Dave always gave others the credit,” Reardon said. “He never cared if his role was acknowledged. It was always simply about accomplishing the tasks.”

As part of Broehl’s project, a tunnel was constructed to connect the basements of the various buildings, and soon thousands of items were retrieved from storage and displayed. The collection includes the history of Wayne County’s agriculture, birds and animals, documents, flags, household items, military uniforms and weapons, photos and portraits, toys, items reflecting the industrial revolution, and many other displays.

For nearly three decades, Broehl devoted his time, talents and energy to the sustenance, improvement and promotion of the historical society. He served countless hours as a docent and two terms as president, and he co-chaired, with Greg Long, “A Campaign into the Next Century,” which raised $1.5 million toward the achievement of a multitude of projects.

“David loved history and was passionate about presenting Wayne County’s history,” Margo Broehl said.

Reardon said Broehl had big ideas. “And he was the go-to guy on so many levels.”

Broehl was born in Chicago, grew up in New Hampshire and came to town to attend The College of Wooster. By the time he graduated, he’d grown to love the area and knew it was the place where he wanted to live his life. He and Margo raised their two sons and daughter in Wooster, and he spent his career in social service, advocating on behalf of abused and at-risk children, the developmentally disabled, the elderly, and the homeless.

In addition to his work for the WCHS, he volunteered in many other capacities including coaching soccer, serving the Jaycees and the NAACP, participating in the Medway levy committee, filling seats on various boards of directors, and championing the Charles Follis Trail project. His objectives were to make his corner of the world a better place and to help others succeed. Broehl passed away in October 2020, leaving a void but also a legacy in Wayne County.

The dedication will take place Saturday, Sept. 24 from 3-5 p.m. at the Wayne County Historical Society, 546 E. Bowman St., Wooster. A plaque will be unveiled, and visitors may tour the permanent collection at no cost. Overflow parking is available at St. Mary’s Church.

“This is an extremely generous honor,” Margo Broehl said. “My family and I are very touched that David is being remembered this way.”

The Wayne County Historical Society is open for guided tours on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m., March through December, and closed on holidays. The permanent collection is accessible to persons with disabilities.

The historical society always welcomes volunteers, and there are many ways to help including becoming a member, guiding tours as a docent and assisting at special events. Volunteers are needed to help clean exhibits, work on the grounds, and repair and maintain buildings. Those interested can call 330-264-8856 or email host@waynehistoricalohio.org.