Historical Society finds future home

By Regina Villiers.  Originally published October 6, 1999 in The Suburban Life, added October 16, 2017.

Parke Johnston and his wife, Phyllis, recently donated $5,000 to the Madeira Historical Society. At the check presentation ceremony are, from left: front, Cathy Louis, Nancy King, Elizabeth Miller and the Johnstons; back, Les LeFevre, Ruth Miller and Andrew Rucker.

Dr. Parke B. Johnston and his wife, Phyllis, recently met with officers of the Madeira Historical Association to present a check for $5,000 to the society.  The presentation took place at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth Miller, who was present, along with members of her family- daughter Ruth Rucker, son Bruce Miller and grandson Andrew Rucker.

Mrs. Miller has given her home to the society to be used for a future historical museum.

Until his retirement, Dr. Johnston owned the Madeira Veterinary Clinic and the Madden property.  He took over the clinic from his father-in-law, Dr. Madden, and he once lived next door to the Millers.

Since his retirement from the clinic, Dr. Johnston operates his own part time business, Animal Behavior, from his farm.

The large donation is a huge boost to the Historical Society.  They hope it’s the start of something big for them.

The society is starting out the fall with a new slate of officers- President Dr. Les LeFevre, vice president Nancy King, treasurer Cathy Louis and secretary Art Adamson.  They have high hopes, but they know they have to work hard.  They also know they have to grow and expand their membership.

Dr. LeFevre is excited about the prospects for the group.   “We are looking for people who will get involved,” he said.  “We want to bring in community leaders.  We want this to be a community resource for all the community.”

He sees the future museum not as merely a collection of artifacts.  He wants it to be more than a place to look at things.  He sees it as an education resource facility where historical information can be gathered and stored, information that would trace the evolution of the town and the people who made it what it is. He would like to see a program developed between the museum and the schools in Madeira.

To get to that point, the society needs a lot of help.  They need to raise funds, and they need to get more people involved.

In the several years I’ve been involved with the society, Doug Oppenheimer and an extremely small group of stalwart souls have carried the group on their backs.  Doug, a charter member, past president and chief drumbeater, has operated, at times, on little more than sheer hope and rugged stubbornness.  He had a vision. Like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, he beat bushes, looking for a home for the group, while storing most of the artifacts in his home and at his business.  I’m quite sure that it’s because of his friendship between the Oppenheimer and the Miller families that the group has found home for their future museum.

In the 12 years that the two families have been neighbors, Doug has mowed the grounds and taken care of Miller’s property, except for her gardens.  A deep rapport and friendship has developed between the two of them.

Over 90 now, she still cares for her greenhouse and flower gardens herself.  She kids Doug and orders him to stay away from them.  Over a year ago, she said:  “No way is he getting near my gardens.  He zones out on the tractor.”

This past June, on a hot Saturday, Doug whipped and cajoled a small group into weeding and tidying up the grounds for a lavish cookout in the Miller backyard.  He was given orders to stay away from her flowers.

Doug insists he’s in the background now, but he’s still a board member.  And in a pinch, who they gonna call?  Like “Ghostbusters,” he’ll come running, of course.  He is now lining up interesting programs for coming meetings to entice more people to come and discover the society for themselves.

The group is planning various activities to raise funds.  They are publishing a cookbook to be for sale soon.

And Les LeFevre has his sights set on a huge, gala brunch in the spring to raise funds and involve the community.  For that, he needs lots of help.

He also hopes more people will step forward with the generosity of Mrs. Miller and Dr. Johnston.  Because of people like them, and because of a small core of people in the Madeira Historical Society who kept the faith, Madeira will one day have its heritage preserved in a beautiful museum for the entire community. Mrs. Miller’s home and her gardens will be preserved forever.

With renewed hope and energy, the Madeira Historical Society is working toward a dream.