As the village celebrates 150 years, with a community-wide festival, a couple of the community leaders reflected on what made the community special and various events that stood out over the past century and a half.
Sesquintennial committee member and village fiscal officer Bonnie Beck said she remembers celebrating the community’s 100th anniversary, having lived in Monroeville for all but 10 years of her life.
“I think it’s really remained a tight-knit community,” she said. “There’s really not many empty houses and places go fast when they are for sale. And we have a very viable work force here, we’ve still remained viable — that’s great. Really, I’m proud of who we are.”
Mayor Melissa Fries agreed, adding the she thinks of the love and support that the community has shown and continues to show down to today.
“One thing that sticks out, the one thing that never changes, is that these people have the biggest heart you’ll ever find,” Fries said. “Whenever someone needs help they’re right there lending a hand however they can.”
Fries said the village saw its fair share of destruction, with several fires that tore through the area in its past, but that she believes in some cases it was through those ashes that the kind and good community came to be.
“Fires have gone through Monroeville several times in our 150 year history,” she said.
“I do know that we have had a history of fires devastating the area, but that (the people were) a wonderful asset. That’s something that’s continued, again we continue to see the community coming together even today to build the MAC community building — and that’s a nice little gem for the community.
“Whether it’s fundraising or the raw brute that makes it happen, it makes our community. For example teaching at the school when it was time for a new playground so many laborers gave of their time, money and resources to build it. All of these things, they absolutely build community. That makes us strong.”
Fries said she’s been glad to hear that others view Monreoville the same way she does, adding the village holds a special place in her heart.
“I just feel it’s a great place to live and to raise a family,” she said.
“It’s full of wonderful people that live here, work here and go to school here, making it a great place to live. ... The people that have a connection here — that work, live, worship or go to school here — they really are the salt of the earth people. You trust your neighbors here. They’re good people, hard working people, with good, strong work ethics. Those are important factors to make the community thrive.”
Fries said they’ve asked various community members over the past couple week about things that they remember and love about the village and its rich history as well.
“Many of the comments had to do with just being in the community together, laughing together, working together, worshiping together and building that community up — it’s enough to warm the heart,” she said.
Reflecting on the past has shown a couple areas of improvement for the village as well though.
“When you go back even (50 years ago), we had a lot more businesses in Monroeville at that time,” Beck said.
“So it’s kind of sad that we’ve lost those business, ones that you knew growing up and seeing there. That’s kind of sad. But we’re doing everything to build that back up but it’s a process. It’s kind of economy-dependent and how things go across the U.S.”
Fries agreed, adding as she looks ahead to what the village has in store for the next 150 years, she wants to see a growing and thriving economy, but with a few strings attached.
“With change comes growth, however, I don’t want us to grow so much that we lose the small town heart that we’ve been speaking of,” Fries said. “It’d be great to get more businesses in and we’re hoping some of that might come to fruition, but in the meantime we want to keep doing the things that make us special.”
“What I would love to see is the downtown flourish,” she said. “I’d love to see different businesses going up downtown. I’m also excited about the park program expanding with the rails to trails going through Monroeville and we’re expanding off that. I’m excited to see where that goes (in the future). And the school is great for the community. They remain strong both with the academic and athletic programs. That’s a strong part of Monroeville and its future.”