Lincoln School Memorial Prints Travel To Illinois

Lincoln School prints

As the dust motes settled in the halls of Lincoln Elementary School last June, two more items needed to find a home. Demolition of the venerable brick school was on the calendar and students were to be housed elsewhere until a newly built school on the same site, the corner of Summit Avenue and Clifton Boulevard in Lakewood, Ohio, was completed.

During a conversation with longtime library media assistant Sue Cernanec, my counterpart at Lincoln, who knew of my keen interest in local history, I was introduced to a set of framed prints which had been in storage at the school for many years. The subject matter, a young boy and girl in Spanish garb, were vintage images from the 1940s and 50s, but did not seem to relate to Lincoln School history.  BUT, the small metal plaques on the base of each print made that a different story entirely.

"IN MEMORY OF JANE EESLEY 1938--1950" We speculated, could it have been a teacher there, or possibly a student? My research revealed a heartbreaking story. In an era when "human interest" stories were picked up by the wires and made available to other newspapers, the Lima News, the Zanesville Signal, and as far away as the Brownsville Herald in Texas, all reported that young Jane Eesley, "the first girl to captain the safety patrol at Lincoln elementary school in suburban Lakewood," had been out riding her bicycle when she was hit by a car. Family members remember, "A car went by her too close and the passenger side's car handle caught Janie's bike handle and flipped her off her bike. She fell unconscious and never recovered. A terrible tragedy."

It's not known who purchased the prints for Lincoln School to commemorate Jane's short life. Although born in New York, her mother's family were Cleveland area natives and Mrs. Eesley brought her three children to Lakewood in the 1940s to be closer to her relatives following the unexpected death of her husband. Jane's teachers at Lincoln were, in K-6 order, Kroeger, King, Todd, Boyd, Becker, Becker and DiBiasio. Following a B+ in kindergarten, she settled down to all A's for the next five years. Jane's two older brothers both graduated from Lakewood High in the 1940s and continued their studies at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. One brother, Richard "Dick" Eesley, lives in Illinois where his daughter Jane, the namesake of her aunt, is a Methodist minister.

When I first encountered current evidence of a living Jane Eesley, I was a bit confused, but phone and email conversations with her made it clear that I had found the family of Lincoln School's Jane. In the fall of 2014, the two prints were shipped to the family, thanks to the goodwill of local art dealer Paul Sykes.  And in the summer of 2015, I was able to meet and talk with the family, Jane and her parents, during their week-long stay at Lakeside Chautauqua. There were so many shared connections it was almost like talking to a former neighbor. I was pleased to have played a part in restoring this bit of Lincoln School memorabilia to the family, and thank Sue Cernanec and Paul Sykes for their assistance. The Eesley family appreciates these efforts made with Jane's memory in mind.

Katharine Ott

Katharine Ott

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Volume 11, Issue 17, Posted 4:01 PM, 08.18.2015