Editor’s Note — The following was written to Highland County Historical Society member John Glaze upon the author, Christopher S. Duckworth, learning that longtime local historian and longtime former Times-Gazette columnist Jean Wallis will be moving out of the area.
I cannot say that news of Jean’s leaving Hillsboro to live with her daughter is surprising. Regardless, I am struck and most assuredly saddened by this news. Jean has been a good friend for many, many years.
I have long maintained an interest in Highland County history — my grandfather was pharmacist Ed Ayres. He and his wife Elsie spent hours taking me to historical sites, recounting Highland County events, suggesting history books for me to read, and so forth — please know that Jean is exactly the type of person who my grandfather would endorse, help, and support in her myriad historical pursuits. As a natural outgrowth of shared interests, Jean and I became fast friends. She is, simply stated, a wonderful woman — but then everyone in Highland County knows that.
As we frequently compared noted and explored events, Jean always was gracious, understanding, and just plain delightful. Our was not an email relationship — Jean preferred the telephone, and I completely understand why. A call from Jean was always great, especially as we discussed elements of the history of Highland County. While I am a trained professional historian, I learned so much at Jean’s feet. She was a meticulous and indefatigable researcher. To know Jean is to love her, respect her, and appreciate her.
I also enjoyed [her late husband] Lester — although I’m uncertain if I ever heard him finish a sentence — as Jean always anticipated Lester’s thoughts and finished them for him. If this sounds like a criticism, it most certainly is not. Jean and Lester combined to become the best of what local historians can be. Most importantly, they reinforced one another to preserve the past, and they looked to the future. That is a most difficult task to accomplish — but they did so.
I wish that I had known of Jean’s auction. She told me many times that [my grandmother] Elsie had given her a box, which was somewhere (under the bed?), and Jean wanted me to have it. But she just never could locate it at the moment. I have no idea what she had, but I’d love to know. But far more important was the time that I was able to spend with Jean and talk history — the favorite subject of both of us, I suspect. The box episode, however, was just one more example of Jean’s willingness to share, and I’d much rather have our talks than the “box under the bed.”
Most importantly, Jean Wallis was, and is, 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.
Highland Countians, I fear, have limited knowledge of how lucky they have been to have Jean Wallis help preserve its past and guide its future through the Highland County Historical Society and the Southern Ohio Genealogical Society. I have watched many local Ohio historical societies through the years with the Ohio Historical Society, and Jean represents what the very best — God bless her.
I also do know this: I will sing Jean’s accomplishments, praise her achievements, and enjoy her friendship. Simply put, Jean Wallis is an amazing woman who has done so very much for her community.
Christopher S. Duckworth has family ties to Hillsboro and Greenfield. He spent three decades at the Ohio Historical Society, where he was founding editor of Timeline magazine, followed by another 10 years at the Columbus Museum of Art. Today, he owns his own publishing company, Brevoort Press LLC.