Park patrons

Couple honored for service to Seneca County Park Dist.

PHOTO BY VICKI JOHNSON John and Judy Arnold relax in their living room.

Judy and John Arnold received the Commissioners Award from the Seneca County Park District in March for their years of service to the board and park projects.

Judy retired as board secretary in March after more than 19 years of taking meeting minutes, handling correspondence and similar tasks. She served longer than any board member.

Judy said the idea of working with the fledgling park district intrigued her almost 20 years ago when she was moving toward retirement from Arnold Vending, the business owned by the Arnold family.

“It came about because I was getting ready to retire and I wanted something to do,” she said. “There was a blip in the paper that they were looking for a secretary.”

She called Linda Anderson, one of the original board members, who invited her to attend the next meeting in the former Seneca County Regional Planning Commission office (now Bailiwicks Coffee Company).

John said Judy gave him a few years’ notice that she was going to retire.

“It was 150 Mondays,” she said.

“I realized when it got down to a year that was serious,” John said.

It was good timing and her interest in creating parks that led her to the volunteer work.

“It was parks and just seemed like something I could do,” she said. “I started going to meetings and met the people and never looked back.”

That was back when the three original board members – Anderson, Tom Bartlett and Tom Corner — were laying groundwork such as writing bylaws.

“When I got started we had nothing,” Judy said. “But Mike Wheatley had already talked to Dr. (Olgierd) Garlo, and after he died they worked with the daughters and the lawyers.”

The result of that effort was the first county park — Garlo Heritage Nature Preserve.

“We got Garlo and it just took off from there,” Judy said. “It’s been amazing because every time we needed anything, we just put something in the paper and somebody would fall out of the sky. Just what we needed. People who had skills we needed at that time.

“We put something in about programs and Linda Rose showed up,” she said. “Later, she said Roland Zimmerman showed up. You can’t really start naming names because there are so many.

“Something needed to be done and somebody did it,” she said. “The particular mix of people that just kept showing up.”

Judy brought John into the mix on several projects. One of them was the first Oktoberfest in 2005. Arnold Vending has been assisting with food service for that event since Day 1.

The business also assisted with other food-related events, but the Arnolds also have worked on other park projects.

“He’s been out there doing whatever I asked him to do,” Judy said of John. “We first started cleaning up the property at Garlo, brush and stuff.

They helped tear down old buildings that were beyond repair.”

Judy said she stayed for 19 years because she felt needed.

“I loved the people,” she said. “Basically they were operating on a shoestring. You felt like you were doing something that needed to be done.

“Through the whole thing, I got way more out of it than I ever put in.”

She said it was time to end her tenure as board secretary because the levy approved by voters in fall 2016 has provided funds for a professional staff.

“I think it was time,” she said.

But she isn’t going anywhere. She plans to remain an active member of Friends of the Seneca County Park District volunteer.

While she was working with the park district, John said Judy also volunteered at Mercy Hospital and fellow park volunteers got her involved with the Seneca County Commission on Aging.

“I got involved with delivering Meals on Wheels and I enjoy doing that,” she said.

In addition to assisting in the parks, John serves on the board of Seneca Industrial and Economic Development Corp.

For many years he has served on the state, national and international boards of the National Automatic Merchandising Association.

“That’s what got us into traveling,” he said. “Once a year we’d go someplace in Europe for a meeting, and we’d see other places while we were there.”

Since they began traveling in 1998, the Arnolds said they’ve visited 46 countries and six continents.

“We don’t have Antarctica,” Judy said. “I don’t know if I’ll get to that one.”

The list of countries they’ve visited includes Australia, New Zealand, China, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Morocco and Egypt.

They noted such memorable experiences as traveling down the Nile River and visiting a prehistoric cave in France.

“We thought the pyramids were really old at 3000 BC,” John said. “In southern France you go back 27,000 years.”

On some of their first travels with the international board they met people who continue to be traveling companions today.

“That was what spurred a lot of the travel,” Judy said “We really got into it.”

When he’s not traveling or volunteering, John works every day at the business started in 1948 by his parents, Vincent and Eleanor Arnold.

“I grew up in the business and came on full time in 1966 after college,” he said. “I still enjoy what I’m doing.”

John is from Tiffin, and Judy grew up in the Akron area.

“We met at Ohio University, and now we have two granddaughters attending OU,” John said.

Judy joined him in the business, and retired after their son, Matt, began working there. Today, their daughter, Tracy, works in the office.

“Three generations are working there now,” John said.

The Arnolds celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in February 2017.