By: Rebecca Miller
Camp staff could not have asked for better weather on May 18, 2019, as they gathered with donors, family members, and 4-H Camp Palmer friends to dedicate a brand new cabin. There may have been muddy ruts from recent rains and large machinery that had just finished their jobs, but hearts were full as 60-70 people gathered at Danuta’s Cabin in the woods where Lucas County’s “Cabin 2” used to stand. Some of the guests walked back to the cabin while others enjoyed a ride on the new golf cart driven by Rod Sommers of the Maintenance crew.
Often in life, sadness and joy are so intermingled that one isn’t sure whether to smile or let tears slide down a cheek. This was that kind of day, as the joy and laughter, smiles and chatter, happy speeches and cheerful comments were prolific, while under it all was the sad realization that the lovely lady for whom the cabin is named, was not present.
“As a tribute to her twenty-five years of 4-H volunteer leadership I became the primary donor for the construction of a new sleeping cabin at 4-H Camp Palmer,” Mr. Walt Lange said in a letter to invite friends and family to attend the dedication. His wife, Donna, (Danuta was her Polish name), passed away in December 2017. Fifteen members of his family were the human center of attention for the event, but the gorgeous high-ceilinged, spacious cabin brought oohs and ahhs as folks entered. The walls are a lovely collection of boards cut from eight different kinds of trees; spruce, tin oak, maple, red oak, sassafras, white oak, sycamore and ash. The wood came from the Lange Tree Farm located in Swanton, Ohio, and was treated and cut specifically for this cabin. Lange shared that he was thrilled with how the boards turned out.
“I just wanted to do something great in memory of her,” he added. The late Chuck Wurth said about her, “Donna just made you feel good inside when she was around.” This day at the camp was about remembering and honoring her, as the cabin is named after her, but it was also about recognition being given to all those who participated in making it happen.
Camp Palmer Director, Bill Goodson welcomed everyone into the cabin where 55 chairs had been set up for the event. In one corner were two of the ten brand new bunk beds and along the east wall was a table laden with goodies for the reception which followed the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.
Goodson gave special thanks to a long list of volunteers and companies who were involved in the construction. Besides the lead gift from Walt Lange, there were others who gave large donations to assist in the cost. Goodson said there were some anonymous donors, as well as Fulton County Dairy Association ($3000), Farmers and Merchants State Bank ($3000), Williams County Pork Producers ($2000), a local farmer who designated his grant through American Farmers Grow Grant ($2500), and all the trusses which were donated by R & L Trusses (valued at $3000). He also shared that the interest from the Mansperger Fund Endowment helped as well.
The main contractor was Mark Ballmer with Ballmer Construction. Goodson expressed special appreciation to Dwayne Gordon and his wife Mary who put in many hours of help. Lange stepped up and said that he “nicknamed Mary, Rosie the Riveter, because she was up on the scaffolding working with that nail gun so much!” Other workers who were honored included Dale Bruner, Denise and Dennis (Lange’s daughter and son in law), Zack Krout, Zack Lenz, John Lenz, Jack and Nancy Lawrence, Tim Dancer, Steve McCaw, Rod Sommers and Nathaniel Ballmer.
Board members, Jayne Roth of Wood County, Rachel Hoverman of Van Wert County, Kayla Miller of Fulton County and Elliot Lawrence of Lucas County were all present and when given opportunity to speak, all shared their joy and encouragement to 4-H Camp Palmer as they look forward to their campers benefitting from this great gift. Lawrence shared that since Cabin 2, which was in great disrepair, was the Lucas County cabin, he could not be happier that it has been, “not renovated, but replaced.” He added that now Lucas County will be in charge of another cabin.
4-H Camp Palmer started in 1946 with the use of platform tents. In the 50’s about 12 rustic cabins were built and in the 1990’s through 2002 many of them were renovated. Cabin 2 was never remodeled and laughingly became known as “the haunted cabin”. Lange gave the audience a chuckle when he added that they started out planning to renovate the cabin, but by the third planning meeting they decided to call in a bulldozer!
During the event, Lange’s daughter, Lisa Higginbotham, read a memorial article which is now mounted on the wall by the door of Danuta’s Cabin. It told of how she came to America from Poland as a child, and changed her name to Donna when she entered High School. It is a tribute to a wonderful woman who lovingly gave so many years to 4-H.
Rebecca can be reached at email@example.com