It’s no surprise that the Lutz family has been around these parts for a long time. Currently, I live about a three-minute walk from where my father grew up and he didn’t live very far from where his father grew up. There have been generations of the Lutz family that have grown and lived on the east side of the community. So, when Thanksgiving comes around every year, there is no need for a long automobile ride or a long layover at airport; all of our family lives pretty much in town.
And while I am extremely thankful about having family so close, it makes stories about Thanksgiving, frankly, boring. There are no interesting stories about “going back home” or meeting up with old friends. Perhaps that is what happens when you have lived your whole life in the same town. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Yet, I am always fascinated by the stories of how people got here. What caused an individual’s or family’s life to bring them right here to the Miami Valley? Better yet, why the Miami Valley?
Earlier this year, I met a nice young lady named Danielle. We were working together on a Friday afternoon passing out bologna sandwiches in Piqua in conjunction with the Salvation Army’s Summer Feeding Program. Danielle had a free day and decided to travel to Piqua to do something awesome for some kids who needed a little something awesome in their lives.
I quickly learned that Danielle was not a product of the Miami Valley. In fact, she was from a town in Southern California. I was immediately intrigued by her story. How could someone leave the relatively tranquil comforts of the San Diego metropolitan area to come to Dayton, Ohio? On its face, this sounds like a losing proposition.
And Danielle admitted that the move east was not something she was particularly thrilled with. Her family originally moved from Southern California to Hillsboro when she was in the middle of high school. After high school, she moved to the big city of Dayton, with a stop in Wilmington wedged in there.
Danielle stated that her father wanted to get into agriculture and southwestern Ohio provided the right farmland at the right price. For her, the rest is history. She went to college, got married and admitted that while she does long for southern California (especially the weather), Dayton is becoming home.
She says she enjoys living in downtown Dayton and all the cool things that there are to do there. For example, she loves going to Dragons games with her husband in the summer and loves hitting some of local watering holes that have live music.
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges to living in the same community your whole life is that you can become quickly immune to all the great things that are in our community. The things that make this place a great place to live can too easily become things we take for granted.
Take all our regional museums for example. The Dayton Art Institute, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, the National Museum of the Air Force. All of these facilities have a real regional (and even national!) draw. Yet, sometimes we don’t even take the time to enjoy what we have in our own backyard. I hate to admit it, but I can’t remember the last time I was at the Art Institute or even the Air Force Museum.
Closer to home, take a look at our own Fort Piqua Plaza or Hobart Arena. These buildings are not only landmarks, but they are hubs of activity. It is no secret that the Fort Piqua Plaza, for its size, is one of the nicest public libraries in the entire state, if not the country. There are towns three and four sizes the city of Troy that would absolutely love to have a facility like Hobart Arena.
This holiday season, let’s take a step back and take a look at some of the really cool assets we have in our own backyards. Our region and our county have a lot of great places that people would travel far and wide to see. Let’s not lose sight of how lucky we are to have these treasures in our own backyard.
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.