Jean Wallis dies at 90


Jean Wallis, who became the preeminent historian of Highland County, Ohio, died Thursday, May 9, 2024, at the age of 90. She passed away at the home of her daughter and son-in-law in Loveland, Ohio.

Jean’s passion for local history began at an early age, and beginning in 1982 her weekly history lessons became a staple of the Hillsboro Press Gazette (now The Times-Gazette), appearing under the simple artwork designed by her husband of an old signpost featuring the words, “Highland Guidepost”. She wrote the articles continuously for 28 years.

A few years after discontinuing the articles, Jean agreed to update and re-submit a number of them, gaining a new generation of fans, many of whom were now discovering her published time capsules on the internet.

Jean was ably assisted through the years by her husband, Lester, who passed away in 2012. As a team, Jean and Lester did as much or more than anyone in Highland County history to collect, preserve and describe in colorful prose the people, places, events and artifacts that contributed to the region’s growth, success and charm.

Throughout the years, Jean was the go-to source for every organization and local media outlet when it came to settling questions of local history. If she could not immediately resolve a question, she would painstakingly research the topic until a satisfactory answer could be found.

In October of 2020, Jean relocated to Loveland to live with her daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth and Andy Biggs, who survive. Her daughter said Jean “really liked Loveland and how close everything was, including restaurants and shopping.” Jean enjoyed traveling with Beth and Andy, and hoped to visit Moab, Utah, this year. She loved recalling trips to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, crossing the Continental Divide, Harpers Ferry, Antietam and Gettysburg.

“She also enjoyed going to Casper Wyoming, to the museum where she got to finally meet Rick, curator of the museum, whom she had talked to numerous times over the years,” said Beth.

Jean Wallis was born Nov. 8, 1933, in Hillsboro, the daughter of Loren and Marguerite (Suiter) Gall.

Jean was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution for 54 years, serving as regent for two terms. She was a member of the Highland County Historical Society, serving as secretary for 14 years, as well as president, vice president, assistant director, board member, and finally historian emeritus. She was inducted into the Highland County Historical Society Hall of Fame, and the society’s library was dedicated in honor of Jean and Lester, who were instrumental in the creation of the “Pictorial History of Highland County”.

Jean served as president of the Southern Ohio Genealogical Society and chairperson of First Families, also serving as historian and board member.

She was a member and historian for the Hillsboro Global Methodist Church.

Jean was a member of the Hillsboro Women’s Club, and a troop leader for Girls Scouts. She also worked with Leadership Highland.

Jean received numerous honors and recognitions. She was inducted into the AAUW Highland County Women’s Hall of Fame. She was Hillsboro Citizen of the Month in September 1996. The Highland County Commissioners proclaimed Dec. 9, 2018 “Jean Wallis Day” for her lifetime of service.

In 2020, upon learning that Jean was leaving Highland County to live with her daughter’s family in Loveland, historian Christopher S. Duckworth, who spent three decades at the Ohio Historical Society, wrote a letter lauding Jean as “the most steady and knowledgeable voice of Highland County’s past. She wanted only to uncover the truth and to tell it – and that is the hallmark of a true historian.”

Per Jean’s wishes, there will be no services. Cremation services will be conducted by the Turner & Son Funeral Home in Hillsboro.

Memorial contributions can be made in Jean’s name to the Highland County Historical Society, 151 E. Main St., Hillsboro, Ohio, 45133.

Gary Abernathy is a former publisher and editor of The Times-Gazette.

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