St. Marys and Pleasants County residents suffered a huge loss last week, with the passing of former St. Marys Mayor Art Olds. It is not often a person comes along with such dedication to service.
In addition to being the longest serving mayor of St. Marys, from 1977 to 1993, Olds was involved in every way he could find to help others. Parks and Recreation, the American Red Cross, the Boy Scouts, mayors associations - even the creation of a St. Marys Conference, for towns throughout the country with that same name.
Living along the Ohio River gave Olds plenty of opportunity to pitch in, through the Red Cross, as he did even as late as the "100 Year Floods" of 2004-05.
"If a disaster struck, he jumped into it 100 percent," said Sharon Kesselring, financial development director for the Mid-Ohio Valley chapter of the Red Cross. "He showed us all how to be a Red Cross volunteer."
In setting the standard for hard work and service, Olds displayed remarkable stamina, apparently energized by his missions.
"He always had the willpower to do what needed to be done," Kesselring said.
Disaster was not all that energized Olds, however. He was determined to do right by the folks of Pleasants County. His influence was felt to such a degree that last year, the new Pleasants County Aquatic Center was dedicated to him.
"He was instrumental in the fact that we kept it affordable so no kid would be turned away," said Pleasants County Commissioner Larry Barnhart. " ... He always put St. Marys first."
Olds took to his new home - he moved to St. Marys from New York in 1955 because he was transferred by Union Carbide - as though he had been born and raised in the Mid-Ohio Valley. He devoted the rest of his life to making it a better place, and, for that, we are grateful.