Reflections: Remembering a gentle lady

By Evelyn Long - Contributing Columnist

Periodically I like to reflect on an individual who, I feel, contributed positively to the Cardington community.

This week I am reflecting on the life of Ruth Conaway Westbrook, who was described as having “printer’s ink” in her blood. Ruth’s father, the late William Conaway, purchased the Morrow County Independent in 1905 after owning it jointly with W. E. Hull for eight years.

She did odd jobs in the office when she was seven years old and eventually ran the “mailer.” The office was located at the same South Marion Street address until it was destroyed by the 1981 tornado.

There were three rooms of presses, composing tables, linotype and boxes of tiny printing letters, remembered Ruth during an interview. In 1923 gas powered equipment was changed to electric power which made a significant difference, she said.

Her brother, Ward, graduated from Cardington High School in 1929 and Ohio University, then returned home to help his father as he became the editor. Ruth graduated from Cardington High School in 1930. She then worked for her brother and recalled the paper serving a village that had had grocery stores on every block, a thriving hotel, several manufacturing firms, furniture stores, gas stations and other businesses adding up to a bonanza of ads.

She recalled the abundance of news for a paper, generally eight pages, whose circulation peaked at 2,300 copies a week. Ruth said there were regular news contributors, from Alice Van Sickle, a regular reporter who later gained recognition by the Ohio Newspaper Association.

Local people brought their lodge and club news in every week, Ruth said. She said that during the Depression, when people could not pay their subscription ($2 per year and five cents a copy) they would bring produce in for a swap.

Ruth married Wayne Westbrook in 1932. Even while raising three children she continued her work at the paper which by then had acquired the Tri-County Star, basically Ashley new and the Union Register, printed at Mount Gilead.

She recalled the tragedies that occurred in Cardington including the train that killed six people from Michigan on a cold, foggy day and the fire that destroyed the Gandee Bakery in 1949. She also remembered the many activities in the village that included the three =-day Halloween festival.

Even after Ward sold the paper to Bill Histed in 1981, Ruth continued to work for the paper, doing as she described it “her printer’s devil’s work!”

She lamented the loss of so many records when the tornado destroyed the building, from the museum type presses, one with ebony on it, to the dozens of boxes of those obsolete tiny letters once used for printing ads. She was pleased, though, that the office had served as a an employment site for many.

Ruth, who passed away in 2004, was a loyal and active contributor to the success of Cardington. She is missed and I am so glad to have known her.

80 years ago, August, 1939: Governor John W. Bricker addressed a crowd of 1,200 at the second annual Morrow County picnic held at the Morrow County Fairgrounds.

30 years ago, August, 1989: Mr. and Ms. Stephen Conaway and their children of London, England, spent a week in Cardington in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ward Conaway.

By Evelyn Long

Contributing Columnist

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