ST. MARYS - A former St. Marys mayor who was known as the longest-serving mayor in his town and for his civic commitment has passed away.
Art Olds, 92, passed away Wednesday, according to current St. Marys Mayor Paul Ingram. Ingram also runs the Ingram Funeral Home in St. Marys where arrangements will be made.
Olds came to St. Marys from New York in 1955 when he was transferred to the Union Carbide plant where he served as the safety and health director.
Ingram said he grew up knowing who Olds was because Olds' kids were friends with one of his neighbors.
"Being a small town, everyone knew everyone else," he said.
Olds was instrumental in the establishment of many things around St. Marys, including helping to charter the Pleasants County Development Authority and set up the St. Marys Conference for towns around the country called "St. Marys."
He was also involved in the Parks and Recreation Commission, the American Red Cross, the Extension Service, the Boy Scouts, and the Mid-Ohio Valley Mayors Association. Through the development authority, he helped develop the lower end of the county where an industrial center is now located.
"He was active in everything," the mayor said. "He did a lot for St. Marys. He was instrumental in a lot of things. He was the longest serving mayor in St. Marys (from 1977 to 1993)."
Ingram said Olds was initially a write-in candidate in his first run for mayor.
Pleasants County Commissioner Larry Barnhart had worked with Olds in the Red Cross, the American Legion and other local committees and organizations.
"This is a big loss for our community," Barnhart said of Olds' passing.
Barnhart said it was Olds who initially hired him as a city judge and brought him into working with the Red Cross as the military contact to work with servicemen and women who needed to come home in a time of emergency.
Olds traveled all over the country in times of disaster with the Red Cross. If the two of them would go to a state meeting for the Red Cross, everyone knew who Olds was.
Sharon Kesselring, financial development director for the Mid-Ohio Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross, said she was "very saddened" by Olds passing.
"He was such a gentleman and a humanitarian," she said.
Olds started with the Red Cross around 1985 after he retired, but while he was mayor. He worked as a job director for disasters.
"If a disaster struck, he jumped into it 100 percent," Kesselring said. "He showed us all how to be a Red Cross volunteer.
"He was Mr. Red Cross in Pleasants County."
He made sure people were prepared for disasters, Kesselring said, adding he could always pull volunteers together in a time of need.
She also commented how Olds kept in shape to handle whatever he could when asked.
"He always had the willpower to do what needed to be done," she said.
He was able to recall so much of his own history with the Red Cross.
"He could recall things in very vivid detail," Kesselring said. "He was on every major disaster in West Virginia."
The last time was during the "100 Year Floods" in 2004-2005 when the Ohio River flooded twice.
"Art was in place in Pleasants County going along the river making sure everyone was taken care of," Kesselring said. "He put his heart and soul in everything he did."
Last year when the new Pleasants County Aquatic Center was dedicated, officials dedicated it to Olds for the years of service he had on the park board.
"He was instrumental in the fact that we kept it affordable so no kid would be turned away," Barnhart said. "I think we have one of the lowest fees in the state for our pool."
Barnhart said he could always count on Olds for an honest answer.
"He didn't tell you what he thought you wanted to hear," he said. "He told you what he thought and if it was the right thing to do.
"I really respected him."
Ingram said Olds was always civic minded about his community.
"He always put St. Marys first," he said.
Of Olds' civic commitment Barnhart said, "That was Art."
"He was a great mentor and friend," he added.
Olds is survived by his wife, Marion, and their children Doug and Barbara.
Funeral arrangements at Ingram Funeral Home were pending Thursday evening.