Monday, February 2, 2004

Park lover preserves history of city's spaces

Pat Campbell: You'll find her at the archive

By Janet C. Wetzel
Enquirer contributor

HYDE PARK - Ault Park was Pat Campbell's backyard when her children were growing up, and they delighted in the beautiful, expansive playground.

When the kids were grown, Campbell decided it was time to repay Cincinnati Park Board.

In the mid-1980s, the Hyde Park resident began volunteering for the city parks three days a week, including work in Ault Park's flower garden.

Then in 1989, the self-proclaimed "dirt dubber'' helped found the park's first archival library.

Pat Campbell volunteers three days each week at Bettmen National Resource Center.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
At the request of Larry Annett, assistant to the park board director, she and Kurtzie Gonzalez dug through the musty, dank basement of the park administration building, and other park buildings. Working as much as five days a week, they unearthed books, papers, pictures and other artifacts.

"We were on a search for anything and everything that could be saved that was valuable to the park district,'' said Campbell, 87, a widowed mother of four, grandmother of nine and great-grandmother to eight.

With those materials, they opened the library in the old Eastern Avenue planning office to chronicle the history of Cincinnati parks. In 1994, the library was moved to larger quarters at Cincinnati Bettman Natural Resource Center, East Walnut Hills, where Campbell still works at least two days a week..

"Pat is really unique,'' said Jim Farfsing, manager of the park board's Division of Nature Education. "She helped found the archival library, and helps so many people here with projects - from college students writing a thesis, to neighborhood people wanting to know the history of their parks. She always goes above and beyond.''

When Gonzalez moved to Arizona in 1998, Campbell continued to run the library, which is open to the public and is manned Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

People often call ahead with needs and Campbell is waiting for them. She's still full of enthusiasm and delighted to help people take advantage of the library's offerings, Farfsing said.

"I have a lot of good help from Janet Wiehe, my alter ego, who loves computers,'' Campbell said. "Without her expertise, some things would be difficult to find.''

Campbell said she loves the library, and sees no reason to quit.

"I'm healthy and happy. It's a pleasure to come to work,'' she said. "One of the most interesting parts is meeting people from various walks of life, and helping them find things they're searching for.''


Do you know a Hometown Hero - someone in your community dedicated to making it a better place to live and helping others? E-mail Janet Wetzel at, or fax to 513-755-4150.

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