Each week since September, this newspaper has published — in its Tuesday edition — a story in an ongoing “Our Diverse Community: Inform, Educate, Unite” series. We have received an overwhelmingly positive response to these articles, and I am pleased that we have such a tremendous opportunity to not only share these stories with our readers, but meet such a variety of people who such interesting stories to tell.
The concept of our series revolves around Worthington’s Peace Avenue of Flags, which was rehung last September at the same time we launched what will in all likelihood turn out to be a year-round project. For each nationality represented in the flags, we would identify a person and do a profile piece on him or her, focusing in part on the traditions and characteristics of their native land.
Many of these stories have come about in a pretty straight-forward fashion. Thanks to a number of folks who have given us ideas on individuals to feature — I, for one, have received considerable assistance from Sharon Johnson at the Nobles County Integration Collaborative, for example — we have been able to profile numerous people who have come to the U.S. from other countries and have now settled here. In occasional instances, we have also been able to feature folks such as John and Vona Mae Vihlen, who while not born in Sweden have very strong familial ties to that nation.
There are a few other nations featured in the Peace Avenue of Flags that, while part of Worthington’s cultural heritage, may no longer have a native son or daughter living here. Italy is one example that comes to mind; France and Scotland are others. And while the McGaugheys had their origins in Scotland before moving into Ireland and later coming to America, I — sadly — can tell you depressingly little about where my ancestors came from and their traditions.
So … I write to enlist the help of anyone with input on who we might feature from any nation, but particularly many of the European nations whose immigrants help build Worthington — and so many cities across America — generations ago. A suggested person may not live here anymore — he or she may not even live anymore. But, stories no doubt remain — stories about how these people may have contributed to Worthington while bringing with them (and maintaining) the culture of the homeland they left behind.
When I first came to Worthington 10 years ago, I was immediately struck by the diversity of this community through the variety of businesses I spotted while first driving down 10th Street. After living for four years in New York City several years beforehand, my arrival in Worthington was almost like a mini-homecoming of sorts.
That same kind of diversity existed across America years ago with Italians, Russians, Norwegians, Swedish, Irish, Germans, Dutch … the list could go on. Our predecessors helped shape our community, just as we continue to do so today. And, by celebrating our history, we hopefully can move forward toward an even brighter tomorrow.