Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

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, July 26, 2013

Area speakers' thrilling tales keep listeners attention

Heard any good speeches lately?

Over the years I’ve heard a million of ’em — good ones, bad ones, indifferent ones, great ones, terrible ones.

Since Winston Churchill, Ev Dirksen, FDR and Ollie Bolton died, I haven’t heard a really superb speech.

But I want to draw a distinction here. There are speakers, good and bad, and then there are storytellers. Two people I know very well fall into the latter category. Both are remarkably good wordsmiths — captivating and compelling. I have heard each of them many times, and each experience is a wonder to behold.

The storytellers’ names are Kathie Permal and Dan Ruminski. I have told you several times about Dan’s riveting talks on Millionaires’ Row in Cleveland, the White Family, the Corrigans of Wickliffe, the Drury Family, John D. Rockefeller and their ilk. Dan can hold an audience in the palm of his hand for well over an hour. He can leave me almost gasping for breath and wanting to hear more.

But it’s Kathie I want to tell you about today — for a reason that is not only personal but closely connected to what I do in my job at Lakeland Community College.

In storytelling ability, Kathie is a female counterpart of Dan. She, in her own way, is every bit as knowledgeable and has a head filled with just as many obscure facts as Dan. I marvel at her ability.
When she speaks on behalf of the Legacy Society, I am almost always on hand to introduce her. Then I sit down, settle back with the audience, and listen.

For the umpteenth time, I listen. And I never get bored. I am always entertained, whether she speaks for an hour or is limited to 30 minutes because of a room full of busy people who must get back to work.

First, you probably want to know: What is the Legacy Society? It is a partnership of six non-profits — the Lakeland Foundation; the Lake County Historical Society (Kathie is its executive director); the Lake County Council on Aging; the Lake-Geauga Fund of the Cleveland Foundation; the Holden Arboretum; and the Lake Health Foundation. All of them have top-notch executive directors.

There are two other partners that do not fit into the category of non-profit, but they are important because they are our access to the world. They help us tell our story. They are The News-Herald and Radio Station WELW.

Kathie, at this moment, has four topics. They are “The Marvelous Mansions of Lake County,” “The Remarkable Ladies of Lake County,” “Betcha Didn’t Know” (a quiz about Lake County history) and “Road to Freedom,” the story of the Underground Railroad in Lake County.

The reception we have been receiving throughout Lake County has been exceptional. Every presentation is followed by dozens of questions.

The curiosity about the Mooreland Mansion on the Lakeland Campus, the exquisite former Everett home that is now Kirtland Country Club, the Coulby Mansion (now city hall) in Wickliffe, Leonard Hanna’s home (built in 1472) in Mentor, and the compelling tales about the Underground Railroad and the runaway slaves, is endless.

(1472? you ask. Twenty years before Columbus sailed? Yes, it’s true. It was built in England and moved, block-by-block, to Mentor, where it now sits.)

It was the generosity of Hanna ($30 or so million) to the Cleveland Museum of Art that allows that institution to remain one of two such in the country which remain admission-free – except for a few special showings).

We have presented all of our programs for a ladies’ luncheon group that meets monthly at Skye Restaurant in Mentor and have programs upcoming at the Willoughby Senior Center, Mentor Senior Center, similar centers in Perry and Madison and any other group that is willing to listen.

Diamond Alkali retirees have heard all of our presentations at luncheon meetings at Hellriegel’s Inn. And I vividly recall programs at libraries in Wickliffe, Painesville, Fairport Harbor and Madison.

Service clubs (Rotary, Kiwanis, Exchange, Lions) love the programs. All we have to do is tailor them to their time constraints.

Is your group ready to hear one of these outstanding presentations? Scheduling one is easy. Just call Israel Borow, a student worker, at 440-525-7525 at Lakeland. His desk is right outside my door.

Matter of fact, he’s right between Bob Cahen and Laurie Principe, the top honchos at the Foundation.
When they speak, he listens. And they tell him to listen. So give him a call.

Why all the talk about legacies in Lake County? I’ll tell you next week.


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