and newly married. He applied for the polling job just to get his name in the pot to someday take over at a co-op and was relieved when the board of directors chose someone else. A few months later when the Paulding-Putnam board of directors called him to tell him that their original hire had not worked out and he was to be the new manager pure panic set in.
Herb tried to get out of taking the job by talking to other managers about his shortcomings and by driving to Washington DC to plead his case at the national rural electric office. Everyone told him that with his experience and college education he was qualified. His final plea was to the Paulding-Putnam board. He drove here and got one of the trustees off of his tractor in the field to tell him he was just not ready for the responsibility. Annoyed, the board member told Herb that he was their choice. The decision was final.
In a record-breaking heat wave, Herb moved his then pregnant wife to Paulding where the unusual smell of cooked sugar beets at the American sugar beet factory overwhelmed them both. Herb promised Millie that they would live in the farmland of Paulding for no more than five years.
Seventy years later, Paulding suffers the loss of one of its most known and most beloved citizens. Herb and Millie Monroe got stuck in the polling county clay, had three sons here, and lived out the rest of their days in Northwest Ohio. Herb grew to love Paulding and its people. After their oldest son drowned in 1949 in the Flat Rock Creek, he wanted to stay here and repay all of the kindnesses that people showed them during their loss.
Herb and Millie joined the First Presbyterian Church in 1943, and they were charter members of its Schooner Club, which was intended for couples whose combined age did not exceed 80. Eventually all the members disregarded that rule, as they were having too much fun to “jump ship.” Every New Year’s Eve was spent with their Schooner Club friends celebrating with a progressive dinner, and every August the group hosted a corn supper at the Danklefsen’s barn on State Route 500, where the community came to eat the corn grown by Bill Whirrett and cooked by the Schooners in a large kettle. The group did a lot of good projects in the church with the money raised from those suppers.
Herb joined the church’s choir even before he joined the church. From 1941 until just last spring, Herb sang every Sunday when he was in town. He took his commitment to the choir quite seriously, often taking his sheet music home to practice under Millie’s guidance, and at practices asking the director Sue Crossland if they could sing a number “just one more time” to get it right.
Of course he served nearly every office in the church, and was on the property committee until a few years ago. His long-term knowledge of the church’s electrical wiring and his willingness to get on a very tall ladder to change a light bulb made him invaluable. And if the church needed someone to call people to ask if they were willing to serve as church officers, Herb was a good choice for the job. Who could tell him no?
In the 1940’s, before the days of television, towns hosted Community Institutes, Speakers and demonstrations were the highlights of the week-long programs, which often culminated in a play performed by local people. Paulding’s thespian troupe was known as the “Rural Entertainers,” and Herb got roped into joining by a neighbor soon after moving to town. With his red hair, glasses, lanky stature and comedic timing, he soon became a community favorite. His mere presence on the stage would get the audience laughing before he even delivered his first line.
Herb reluctantly ran for school board in the late 1950s and was elected despite little or no campaigning. He thought that he could really help the community in this way, but he soon found out that he was wrong more than 50 percent of the time with any decision he made. When asked to run for another term, he politely declined. He had a similar experience coaching little league in the early 1960’s. One year was enough of that.
Herb was the Paulding County Cancer Society campaign chairman in 1954. Millie also helped with that. And they were both involved in Red Cross blood drives over the years.
One of Herb’s favorite activities was Kiwanis. He joined the group soon after its charter in 1960, and became part of many of its benevolent projects over the years. Herb was instrumental in organizing and carrying out the Kiwanis travelogue programs, which educated the community about locations throughout the world with slides, films and speakers. He was always after school superintendent and fellow Kiwanian Stan Searing to work on the acoustics in the elementary cafetorium. No matter what Stan and Herb tried, the sound did not carry well in that room.
For years, Herb was committed to selling tickets and working at the annual chicken dinners for Kiwanis during John Paulding Days. But he mostly enjoyed the fellowship of meeting weekly with the business people of Paulding. Early on, he took it upon himself to find a piano player to accompany their singing, and later he found a player piano that he thought would work. When the maintenance on the piano proved too much, he convinced his pastor, Dave Meriwether, to play his guitar and lead singing. Herb Called him their “traveling minstrel” since he often rides his bike or walks to meetings with his guitar slung over his back.
Herb Cared for his wife Millie in their home for as long as he could after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, but eventually he was forced to make the heart-breaking decision to put her in a nursing home. The stress of that time caused him to have a heart attack. As they sped to Fort Wayne, he begged the ambulance driver not to turn on the lights or siren. Herb recovered in time to go back to visiting Millie every day before she died in 1997. Herb was able to make something good come out of that experience; he and Nancy Whitaker formed an Alzheimer’s support group in Paulding County which is still meeting today. Later that year, he was honored by the state as Ohio’s Caregiver of the Year in recognition of his dedication to caring for Millie. He was humbled by the reception in the Governor’s Mansion. And by the reception he got in the senior center after he returned to town. Herb began delivering Meals on Wheels for the center shortly after that. He enjoyed driving and talking to people, and the warming blocks in the cooler reminded him of the hot bricks they used to hold onto when he was a child to keep warm when they were riding in their horse-drawn carriage. He felt bad when he delivered liver and onions to people. “Deliver us from liver!” he would say.
In 1991, Herb served as grand marshal for the John Paulding Days parade. He was humbled by attention like, always saying that someone else deserved the honor more. Herb stayed active in the Paulding Chamber of Commerce over the years, knowing the importance of supporting the community. Perhaps the biggest honor that has given him is the naming of an electrical substation in New Haven, Ind,. after him. The Herb K. Monroe Substation is the only one in the Paulding-Putnam service area that is named for a person. And what did Herb say when George Carter told him about the board’s decision to honor him in this way? “It’s shocking!”
Herb Monroe was dedicated to his family, his friends, and his faith. But he also was set on having fun. Floyd Furrow had organized a meeting of their coffee group at The Gardens of Paulding on Wednesday, the day before Herb died. Herb likely wanted to talk about Ohio State’s recent loss and what kind of basketball team Paulding was going to have this year. After a big dose of Herb’s cheerfulness, all of the men likely left there feeling good about their day.