The Historical Society announces the dates of the conferences


The Champaign County Historical Society will present two educational lectures on local history this summer. The programs are free.

Nancy Patzer: A light in the sky

At the Urbana Aviation Museum on Sunday July 25 at 2 p.m., Nancy Patzer will present a program on Warren Grimes, member of the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Grimes, the inventor of the familiar red, green and white navigation lights still found on the wing tips and tails of modern airplanes, settled in Urbana, Ohio, and started a business internationally renowned, Grimes Manufacturing. As a businessman and community leader, Grimes provided jobs for thousands of local workers and built the Grimes Field Airport north of the city.

From humble beginnings in an orphanage near Dayton and as a day laborer at Ford Motor Company, Grimes had the courage and ambition, not to mention ingenuity, to live the American dream. Grimes was mayor of Urbana and chairman of the State of Ohio Aviation Board. This “father of the aircraft lighting industry” built aircraft lights that helped the United States and Allied forces win World War II.

Grimes Manufacturing is now part of the Aerospace Division of Honeywell International. Mr. Grimes died in 1975. In an effort to celebrate Grimes and his legacy, Mike Major, visual artist and sculptor, published a book on Grimes at Main Graphics, his design store in downtown Urbana. With the help of writer Nancy Patzer, who grew up in Urbana and wrote historical non-fiction throughout her writing career, the book is titled “A Light in the Sky: A Biography of Warren G. Grimes and the History of Aviation Lighting “. “

Patzer, who graduated in 1983 from Urbana High School, currently resides in Columbus, Ohio. She has written a number of articles on the history of Ohio. She owns a marketing communications company, which provides consulting services to the residential housing and healthcare industries. Patzer also dabbles in fiction and has twice received the Thurber Treat Prize for Humorous Fiction from the Thurber House Literary Center.

National plowing competition 1950

On Sunday August 15 at 2 p.m. at the Champaign County Historical Museum at 809 East Lawn Avenue there will be a program on the 1950 National Plowing Competition held in Champaign County. Several presenters will talk about their memories of this event. Presenters will include: Howard Brust discussing the history of this event, Dean Wilson family members recounting how publicity of their father’s success affected their family, Sue Evans Berkemeier covering the conservation project related to the event, and finally, Sarah Finch presents Shirley “Payne” Prosser who was crowned Queen of the Furrow of Champaign County in 1950.

Warren Grimes, circa 1960

Dean Wilson is shown in this vintage photo preparing for the plowing competition in 1950 after winning the competition the previous two years.

Information from the Champaign County Historical Society.


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