By Andrea Cordle
On the first and third Monday of each month, Maria Klemack-McGraw heads out her front door to take part in the Grove City Council meetings. Before she leaves the house, she looks at the oath of office she took 16 years ago. She has the oath of office certificate framed right by the door to remind her of the promise she made.
“It is my calling to serve,” she said.
Klemack-McGraw is the longest serving council member in Grove City’s history. Dec. 21 will be her last regular council meeting representing Ward 4.
“It is really unbelievable,” said Klemack-McGraw. “It’s been the job of a lifetime.”
The councilwoman said she decided to run for office in the late 1990s to give back to the community that helped her family.
Klemack-McGraw was born in Havana, Cuba. She came to the United States in 1961, when she was 13 years old through Operation Pedro Pan. Her parents would have to wait another five years before coming to the United States.
Klemack-McGraw was sent to St. Vincent’s Orphanage in Columbus. From there, she moved in with a foster family from Lancaster.
Finally Klemack-McGraw reunited with her family. They settled in Grove City, with assistance from Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
“In 1966 my family came to Grove City from Cuba,” said Klemack-McGraw. “The community welcomed us with open arms. I never forgot that”
Grove City Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage said the councilwoman brought a different dimension to city council. He said coming from Cuba, Klemack-McGraw offered another take on freedom in the United States.
“Maria has made numerous contributions to this community,” said Stage. “She will be missed.”
Council president Ted Berry has served on council for the past decade with Klemack-McGraw. He said she has a heart of gold.
“She is one of the most caring and compassionate people for her city I have ever met,” said Berry. “When Maria talks about our city, she gets tears of pride in her eyes every time. Few people have had to fight as hard as she has from coming to the U.S. as a 13-year-old immigrant alone, becoming a citizen, then believing so much in public service that she ran for council.”
Klemack-McGraw said she hopes that she has made a difference in someone’s life.
“Being on council has been very rewarding,” she said. “I will miss being a part of it.”
She said her biggest accomplishments while serving the city include being part of the decision-making process to build the Pinnacle, the beautification efforts of Gantz Park and being part of building the new Grove City Library and Mount Carmel.
In addition to leaving council, Klemack-McGraw is retiring from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where she has worked as a bilingual medical interpreter for 13 years. Before that, she worked at Borden Inc. for 18 years.
Klemack-McGraw said she is now ready for the next chapter of her life. After the first of the year, she plans to move to Florida, where her daughter and brother live.
“I’m going back to my roots,” she said. “I miss the ocean and palm trees.”
Klemack-McGraw has four grown children with her late husband, Donald. She remarried her high school sweetheart, Robert McGraw.