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Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Don't miss your chance at storyteller's riveting tales

If you’ve never heard one of Dan Ruminski’s superb armchair chats, and you have even a scintilla of interest in the area’s history, you should make it a point to catch one of his talks pronto.

His grasp of his subject matter is beyond remarkable. I have heard him talk for well over an hour without ever looking a note. He simply does what he does best — he tells a story, enthralls his audience and sends everyone home happy and wondering: “How does he do it?”

I have mentioned him in this space before, probably a few years ago. But I am bringing him up again for a special reason — one that was alluded to last week.

Dan is one of the main fund-raising engines for the autism program being carried on by the Willoughby Rotary Club. The club’s intent is to provide 50 iPads — worth some $25,000 — to help area kids with autism to better communicate.

What most of us consider a routine act of communication is an almost impossible challenge for these young people. But with iPads, a whole new world of information opens up. The instruments are real life-changers.

And thanks to the efforts of past Rotary President Ray Somich and the current leader, Ron Boetger,  the club is well on its way to meeting its goal. The first batch of iPads will be handed out at the end of April. The ultimate distributors of the instruments will be Share A Vision, Willoughby-Eastlake Schools, Deepwood and the Fine Arts Association.

A lot of voluntary contributions have helped get the program started. But there wasn’t enough money to meet the goal without some outside help.

Enter Dan Ruminski. He isn’t really outside help, because he is a longtime member of the Rotary Club. But he took an interest in the autism project and offered his services — which are remarkable and noteworthy.

What Dan is able to do to help the cause is present his talks, charge an admission fee and donate money to the Rotary project.

I have heard him speak many times and I never cease to be amazed at how one person can retain so much information, never look at a note, and keep an audience spellbound for well over an hour.

He sits, casually dressed, in an easy chair, leans back as the audience leans forward, and spins a yarn replete with the most fascinating details about local history that you can imagine.

Here are some of his riveting topics:

* Millionaire’s Row along Euclid Avenue in Cleveland.

* The Famous Whites of White Sewing Machine and White Motors.

* The Great Estates of Wickliffe – Millionaires Mile.

* The Francis Drury Story, Drury Theater and The Cleveland Playhouse.

* The John D. Rockefeller Story – Myth versus Fact.

* The Theatrical – a Very Famous Cleveland Landmark.

My favorite artifact in Dan’s vast collection is a picture of a gentleman and a lad on polo pony at the Circle W Farm in Chester Township. I grew up on that farm. We’re talking Depression Era. Nobody had any money then — except for the White family. They were wealthy beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. They made Donald Trump look like some beggar on food stamps.

There is no disputing who the gentleman on the polo pony is. (It is a different picture from the one in Dan’s brochure.) Seated on the horse is the groom who cared for the White family’s 16 show horses and polo ponies. His name was Kenney Collins. He happened to be my father. He not only happened to be, he was.

Dan Ruminski contends that the lad on the horse with my dad was a young Walter White, whom I knew very well and whose father was THE Walter White, possessor of much of the above-mentioned immense wealth.

I have asked many people to inspect the picture, asking if they notice any resemblance between the young lad and — well — me.

And they say, “why yes, that could be you, sitting on the horse” with the man whose name is the same as mine except that mine has “Jr.” at the end.

Dan says nonsense, the lad is young Walter White. And I am certain he is right. Sometimes I just like to argue for the sake of argument. But I digress.

Here is how you can find out how to attend one of Dan’s spectacular presentations:

Call (440) 951-1312 and ask for Dan. Or email Or check this website:

Here are a couple more options: Or

Or, if you have a stamp, try Willoughby Rotary Foundation, PO Box 1302, Willoughby OH 44096-1302.

If none of these work, I have run out of ideas.


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