The Fort Ball Antique Club celebrated its 45th anniversary May 9 at The Hermitage, the home of Elke and Dieter Schneppat. Three former members and 16 members attended the dinner meeting, along with a few guests.
Past presidents who have moved away came to the meeting. They included Shirley Forrest, Bellaire Beach, Fla.; Margaret Mann, Lakeside; and Marnie Jones, Charlotte, N.C. Jones and Forrest also were charter members. Charter members who still belong to the club are Janet Beisner, Edwina Miller and Elke Schneppat.
"I was 27 years old when we started this," Schneppat said.
Having grown up with vintage objects, she was able to continue and expand her interest through the club. Schneppat said she still enjoys shopping for antiques.
For the anniversary celebration, members enjoyed appetizers and a time of reminiscing on the outdoor patio. Jones has been away from Tiffin for 24 years, but she has fond memories of the friends she has made through the club. She met Dieter and Elke Schneppat when both couples were living in the same apartment complex in Tiffin.
The two women and eight other women had a common interest in antiques, so they formed a chapter of Questers, a national organization for people who collect and restore antiques. The founders decided to limit the number of members to 20 so meetings could take place in homes. They always had a waiting list of women wanting to join.
"It was a group that everybody wanted to be in. It was a vibrant, wonderful group. In fact, it's the best club I've ever been in," Jones said. "I still love it."
Following her mother's example, one of Jones' daughters used Fort Ball as a model to start a similar club in her town. It has been active for 36 years.
Jones has moved a few times and reduced her antique collection, which consisted mostly of family heirlooms and items from the colonial period.
"When we left Tiffin, we had to downsize and gave the girls a lot of things. Then when I moved to a retirement home, I had to downsize, so the girls got a lot more then," Jones said.
After her husband died nine years ago, Jones moved to a condominium in Charlotte to be near her middle daughter. The antiques she still owns are electronically catalogued with the date each item was acquired, a description, its family history (if applicable) and the daughter who is to inherit it.
Another past president, Forrest, has been away from Tiffin for 33 years, but she traveled from Florida to attend the anniversary celebration.
The first time she entered The Hermitage, she was 13 years old and part of a group of students who helped to serve a catered meal hosted by George Kalbfleisch.
She remembered the antique club met once a month, as members still do. After about five years, the group broke away from Questers and changed its name to Fort Ball Antique Club.
Two of the programs Forrest presented were about pewter ice cream molds and blue and white Wedgewood Jasperware.
"We always had speakers. Usually, it was ourselves. Each person chose a subject. If they had a collection, they'd bring part of it and talk about the collection. We all learned a lot about the other collections," Forrest said. "We did a lot of field trips. Every month, we did a field trip. That was a lot of fun."
Forrest said she joined a club in Florida and worked at a few antique shops, but the business has suffered with the rest of the economy in recent years.
"Antiques have gone up in price. When we used to go, we'd find items for $20. Now it's more like $220," Forrest said.
Secretary Janet Beisner presented a brief history and overview of the first 20 years of the club's programs and field trips. Schneppat assisted by reading the news release about the first meeting and listed the 10 women who started the club. Members enjoyed a scrapbook of former programs and picture albums from the early years.
At the formal dinner, catered by Aramark, a charter member sat at each of the tables to guide the conversation. After the meal, members adjourned to the music room, where the quilt the club made for the bicentennial celebration in 1976 was on display. Beisner guided the discussion by mentioning events of the last 25 years, and many members added their own comments.
Officers for the 2011-12 program year are President Joan Martin; Vice President Carol Reinhart; Secretary Janet Beisner; and Treasurer Nancy Harnischfeger.
Other members are Debbra Alabaugh, Lenore Bergstrom, Donna Burger, Nancy Cook, Ida Cooley, Char Distel, Ginny Distel, Carolyn Fetzer, Daryl Gordon, Evelyn Houck, Nancy Laux, Lenora Livingston, Karen Michniak, Edwina Miller, Jan Roby, Elke Schneppat, Susie Smith and Nancy Wertz.
Livingston, (419) 448-0888, is membership chairwoman. A prospective member needs to contact a member who can bring her as a guest twice during a program year. Her name then can be submitted for membership consideration. Club size is limited to 25 people so meetings can take place in homes. Annual dues are $20.