Steve Jackson: Making history

Messenger photos by Dedra Cordle
Steve Jackson, president of the Southwest Franklin County Historical Society and a retired Madison-Plains Local Schools teacher, received the Grove City Rotary Club’s 2020 Service Above Self Award. Here, he holds a mockup of the information about his accomplishments that will appear on a bronze plaque outside of Grove City’s city hall.

(Posted Aug. 10, 2020)

Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer

When some people think of history, whether it be local, state, national or world, little zzzz’s float through their heads.

“It is not the favored subject to most,” said Steve Jackson.

But he is not one of those who slips into a state of malaise when the topic is broached. In fact, his reaction is the opposite.

“Oh, I could talk about it forever,” said Jackson. “I’m pretty sure my former students at Madison-Plains High School can still hear me going on and on about it in classes that happened decades ago.”

He said his fascination with the subject began in childhood when he was raised by two history-loving parents.

“I remember some of my childhood friends feeling sorry for me when I told them we were going on a vacation to some historic site around the country,” said the longtime Grove City resident. “But honestly I could not wait to join my parents on these adventures through the past.”

Over the course of his life, Jackson has been an educator, researcher, activist, and constant presence at government meetings to gently prod officials to take action to save or help restore local items of a bygone era.

“They’ve been wonderful,” he said of former and current Grove City leaders, “but I’m sure some have seen me as this little pest buzzing around with historical preservation requests.”

Jackson said it is important that people know the past and made it his mission to bring it back to life when he joined the Southwest Franklin County Historical Society as a charter member in 1982. But the one thing he has never wanted to do, nor attempted to do, was make history himself.

“Steve does not want any light to shine on him,” said James Hale, a Grove City resident who has known Jackson for more than a decade through their volunteer positions on the historical society. “He would much prefer others take the spotlight and forget all about him.”

Childhood friends and members of a local civic association had another thing in mind.

Several months ago, Jackson’s childhood pal, Janet Shailer, saw an announcement that the Grove City Rotary Club was seeking nominations for its 2020 Service Above Self Award.

“We look for an unknown or unsung resident who has made or left a lasting impact for the betterment of the community, state, nation or world,” said Brenda Newman, Rotary president. “They have to also be of a certain age and retired, but what we’re really looking for is someone who has done extraordinary things and not sought out recognition just for doing those things.”

Shailer said when she read all of the attributes listed for a potential nominee, Jackson came to mind immediately.

“Steve has a wealth of knowledge about all aspects of history, and he will always take the time to share that wealth with anyone who is willing to listen,” she said.

Shailer also praised Jackson for his tireless efforts to preserve local history and called him the historical society’s own Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.

“He never stops when something needs to get done,” she said.

Jackson taught at Madison-Plains from 1971 to 2017 and established the school’s scholarship program. He started taking a more integral role in the historical society in the mid- to late-1990s and was part of a massive effort that led to establishment of Grove City’s Century Village Historical Park and restoration of the Grant-Sawyer Home. Both attractions are points of pride in and for the city.

The Grove City Rotary Club and Grove City Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage present Steve Jackson (pictured in the center of the photo) with the Rotary’s 2020 Service Above Self Award. Jackson was selected for the honor for his efforts to preserve local history.

Newman said when the selection committee sat down and reviewed the list of nominees and their achievements, they were blown away by all that Jackson has accomplished and all that he still wants to do as president and a member of the historical society.

“He is a very impressive person,” she said.

With the selection cemented, the Rotary Club went about informing Jackson of their decision.

“I am honored and humbled by their selection,” said Jackson, “but I can name a few dozen people who should have been recognized for the impact they have made or left on this community long before I have.”

He said when the bronze plaque that lists his contributions and bears his likeness is permanently placed outside of City Hall, it should come with an asterisk that lists all of those who have helped him in the mission to bring the local past back to life.

“They are the real stars in this story,” he said. “None of these preservation efforts would have been possible without their dedication or their help along the way.”

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