Pictured are Mary Ann Sommers Larkin, Paige Juillerat, Gayle Coss, Anneka Collins and Marilyn Morris Anders.
By Jeff Gilliland – firstname.lastname@example.org
Five local woman – Marilyn Morris Anders, Anneka P. Collins, Gayle Coss, Paige Juillerat and Mary Ann Sommers Larkin – will be inducted into the Highland County Women’s Hall of Fame when the annual recognition dinner is held Tuesday, Aug. 16.
The event starts at 6 p.m. at the Southern State Community College Atrium in Hillsboro. Dinner tickets are $16 each and can be purchased at The Times-Gazette.
Following is a brief biographical sketch on each of the inductees taken from the forms nominating them for induction:
Anders – Raised on a farm outside of Leesburg and a horse lover from an early age, Anders’ parents stopped entering her in riding contests when she was around 10 because she was winning nearly every event. Then she started breaking and training horses for others, rising at dawn to feed animals then and again after school. She attended Stevens College for Women in Columbia, Mo., partly so she could take equestrian classes. She became a 4-H adviser and leader and continued in those capacities for 55 years.
“If honesty, integrity, intelligence, talent, high moral values and dedication to the development of youth are virtues worth honoring, the name of Marilyn Morris Anders should be enshrined among those held in highest honor in the history of Highland County women,” Gretchen Huffman wrote in her nomination letter.
Anders helped countless kids with their horse projects, served on the Highland County 4-H Committee, Extension Advisory Committee and State 4-H Horse Committee.
“Marilyn helped shape my life in so many ways,” Dr. Susan Hodson Rinehart said. “As my 4-H adviser … she nurtured my love for horses and helped me to succeed in life. My career as a 4-H youth development agent was a result of the many positive experiences I had under Marilyn’s guidance. Now, when my daughter shows horses, I reflect on and daily use things that Marilyn taught me, not just in horsemanship, but in life in general. … I only hope that I can be half the adivser that Marilyn was to me.”
Collins – Currently the Highland County prosecuting attorney, Collins was raised on a farm in Highland County. She was active in both 4-H and FFA, receiving her State Farmer’s Degree in 1997 and her American Degree in 1998. She also received multiple awards in beef production and public speaking, including third place overall as an extemporaneous speak at the Junior Nationals in 2000.
A 1997 graduate of Hillsboro High School, she graduated from Ohio State in just over two years with a bachelor’s degree in English.
After practicing law in the private sector, she became an assistant Highland County prosecutor in 2006. She prosecuted over 3,200 delinquent and unruly cases in five years and was successful in protecting 335 children through active representation in Highland County Children Services. She became the first female, at just 31 years old, to hold the office of Highland County prosecuting attorney in 2011.
Collins is a member of Farm Bureau, Hillsboro Rotary Club, Junior Women’s League, NRA, Ohio Township Association and Republican Central Committee. She is also vice president of the Highland County Bar Association, and a past member of Altrusa, Highland County Law Library Association and South Central Regional Detention Board.
“Anneka’s faith, her devotion to family, and her dedication to our community all demonstrate what a great example she is, and continues to strive to be, to Highland County women,” her nomination letter says. “Her achievements have not only helped to pave the way for women involved in law enforcement and politics, but for women involved in agriculture as well. Highland County women of all ages can look at Anneka Collins … and realize that their dreams, too, can become a reality.”
Coss – Born in Phoenix, Ariz., Coss lived in many places growing up since her stepfather was in the U.S. Navy. From 1968-83 she was employed by Blue Cross/Blue Shield, then worked other positions in the health care field. In 1983, she became a deputy sheriff and began a second career at age 38. She worked as an EMT, jailer and road deputy before becoming a public information and crime prevention officer.
Coss, accompanied by her daughter, drove a rental trailer to Columbus in 1987 for what she thought was a two-year assignment to establish a victim assistance program in every Ohio county. Later that year she became director of grants and special projects for the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and has worked in numerous other law enforcement positions.
In 1993, she married current Highland Common Pleas Court Judge Rocky Coss. She served as an administrative assistant with Ferno in Wilmington, as executive of what is now Bell Gardens Place in Hillsboro, and as market director for the Laurels of Hillsboro.
In 2005, she decided to semi-retire and do some substitute teaching, but was soon asked to become executive director of the Highland County Society for Children and Adults, a position she still holds today.
“Gayle performs her job in a professional and sensible manner. She monitors requests from the citizens of Highland County 24 hours a day. She may spend a significant amount of her day providing services to those requesting help. This aspect of her work if fulfilled with patience, grace and sometimes a sense of humor,” Sue Honeycutt wrote. “She is silent in seeking out other community and social resources that might help others; always with a caring heart and with an eye towards being a responsible steward of the society’s resources.”
“Gayle actively seeks input from other professionals such as doctors, therapists, etc., when dealing with people’s needs,” Pam Chaney added. “She goes beyond just listening, and strives to find other helpful agencies when dealing with something that is not in the society’s realm. Gayle is a positive advocate for what is best for our neighborhoods, and is impacting lives daily.”
Juillerat – “Paige Juillerat is a household name, particularly around Leesburg,” her nominating letter said. “Paige has been a servant and devout leader in her community. Her contributions to her community and her amazing poise through personal turmoil have provided others with comfort, hope and spiritual strength.”
Juillerat has donated to causes too many to mention, and the Mane Street hair salon she opened in Leesburg in 2012 often doubles as a collection center.
But perhaps the greatest showing of her strength came when her infant son, Lincoln, passed away not long ago at the age of 4 months.
“I attended the funeral of young Lincoln and witnessed a community pulled together by great tragedy,” the nomination letter says. “Within the first few minutes of friends calling, a long formed outside the doors… With each person that approached the service line, Paige stood strong with head high and held others as they wept. … In this digital age Facebook is commonplace. Hundreds of people reached out to Paige during this time, to which she replied, ‘I just want to tell everyone thank you for your prayers and kind words. Lincoln James was an amazing, sweet boy. I can rest easy knowing that my baby boy went to sleep last night and woke up to the face of our Lord. That’s what I hold on to, that’s all any of us can do. Kiss my girls goodnight and be in my husband’s arms and dream of my son’s new life with Jesus.’
“Paige is an amazing person. She has a singing voice that would take your breath away, and a spirit about her that makes one joyous to be a part of her life. Through strife she preservers and provides comfort and strength to others. She is a person one wants to aspire to be, and holds values that one longs to instill in their children. Paige is a prime example of giving back to our community. She is a giving, selfless soul who undoubtedly deserves to be in the Highland County Women’s Hall of Fame.”
Larkin – “There are persons who quietly do for others wherever they see a need. Mary Ann Sommers Larkin is one of these. She seems to do this because it is the thing to do, drawing no attention to what she is doing,” Glenna Barr said in her nominating form.
A Greenfield resident, Larkin was a teacher for 20 years and public librarian for 15 years before retiring. After that, she continued to work as a volunteer on the boards of the Basic Child Care Unit at the Greenfield schools, the First Presbyterian Church Preschool and Greenhills Retirement Village. She is an active member of the Delta Kappa Gamma Alpha Chi Chapter, History Club, Social Civics Club of New Petersburg, Highland County American Association of University Women, and is presently the recording secretary of the Highland County Retired Teachers Association and Red Hat Society.
Larkin visits the residents and her sister at Edgewood Manor in Greenfield several times a week. She cooks and serves a monthly luncheon to the nursing home residents and organized a Red Hat Society for the women there. The men did not want to wear red hats, so a cowboy society was organized. Both groups continue today.
She is also a 60-plus year member of the Greenfield Presbyterian Church where she has served as an elder, deacon, moderator and leader of numerous small groups for the Presbyterian Women.
“She is an animal lover. It is well known that if you drop off any animal off at the farm it is sure to be cared for and loved,” the nomination form said. “As you can understand from all of her activities, Mary Ann is very energetic and enthused person, a cancer survivor, and is someone to know.”