Cardington’s Cecil Maxwell reflects on 90 years of life, faith and community
By Evelyn Long -
Cecil Maxwell, who will be 90 years old on March 6, has lived those nine decades following the admonition of one Bible verse: James 2:14.
A devout man with a benevolent spirit, Maxwell, a lifelong Cardington resident, has committed his life to the words of the Bible verse, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works.?”
He has carried out those works through involvement with his church, his community and the government of his home town, usually in leadership roles. Most importantly to him, though, is his family and his role as parent.
Cecil grew up the second of two children of Paul and Ada Maxwell. His father established the Riverside Dairy in 1915 and Cecil began working with his father in the delivery of those products when he was 13 years old and received his driver’s license. His sister, GaNell, helped on these deliveries, made first from a horse drawn wagon.
“The horse was named Nettie and when we took too long to make a delivery, she moved on,” he said. Deliveries were made later from a pickup truck and still later, in 1945 they acquired a truck with refrigeration as they made deliveries to many school districts, including of course, Cardington School and to 225 residential customers. Eventually, their products expanded to include ice cream, orange drink, orange pineapple drink, chocolate milk and cottage cheese.
The milk was produced by Holstein and Golden Guernsey cattle.
“During this time the herd of cattle acquired Bangs disease,” said Cecil. “Dad was kind to me letting me reduce the herd by 50. It was the saddest day of my life when we got rid of them.”
Cecil assumed the operation of the dairy in 1953 upon his father’s retirement.
He was assisted in its operation by his wife, Kathryn, whom he married in 1947.
The Maxwells sold the dairy business in 1994, the ice cream division to Vicki and Rob Lill, Country Caterers, Marion, who retained the Riverside Dairy logo and ice cream recipe.
During this time Cecil was active in the Cardington Rotary Club, joining in 1945 and served as its president and as District Governor.
“I served in all of the offices,” he noted. Involvement with the Rotary Club took him on many trips, including travels to Central American and Guatemala. Bob Mathews, current treasurer of the Cardington Rotary Club, said Cecil is the oldest living member of the club and also has the longest years of membership. Among the many honors he received was the Paul Harris Award, a prestigious Rotary honor. Mathews said Cecil was the club secretary for several years and upon his retirement from that position, he recom– mended Mathews for the post which he has held ever since.
A lifelong member of First United Methodist Church, Cardington, Cecil’s dedication has led him to be a lay speaker, not only on the local level but as a District Lay leader with the Mount Vernon district. He and Kathryn traveled to many countries on mission trips. “There were many great times as we traveled together,” he said
They visited their son, Jim and his wife in Hong Kong and Singapore where they found the country beautiful and “the people kind.” A highlight was their travels to the Holy Land in 1973. They visited Egypt and Jordan and followed the Nile River.
In the late 1980’s he was asked by the Bishop of the East Ohio District of the Methodist Church to visit Zimbabwe, Africa and seek land for building a future African University. That university was later established and is a great site of higher education today.
Cecil and Kathryn carried on the hosting of the Hospitality House at Lakeside, after his parents gave up the venture. The Hospitality House continues to be hosted by a Maxwell as daughter Jeannie Vaughan has assumed those host duties.
Cecil served his home town as mayor from 1978–1982. It was 1981 when he was met with the biggest challenge of his life following the massive destruction of Cardington by the tornado in 1981.
“I remember someone from the ODOT saying, ‘Do you want a hole dug out or filled?’ They were going to see if we wanted the town rebuilt or just let it be filled in. I recall Dale Carsner saying, ‘I raised my boys here and they’re going to work here.’ So we rebuilt.”
Cecil spent many, many hours meeting with officials and with the townspeople as the town rebuilt.
His benevolence was especially gracious when in 2003, he donated 33 acres of his property along the river to the village. Known as Maxwell Park it is being developed with the help of a grant from ODNR, into walking trails, wetlands, fishing area and as a source of education for school students.
Active with the seniors citizens, Cecil and Kathryn were recognized as Outstanding Seniors in the area’s agency on aging.
Loyal to Cardington High School from where he graduated in 1941, he rarely misses an alumni party each May.
Cecil has experienced sadness in his personal life as well as many joys. His first wife, Kathleen, passed away from the effects of strep throat after only 23 months of marriage, leaving behind an infant son. His marriage to Kathryn Pearl also brought a mother to Jimmy and then they had three daughters, Jeannie and twins Janice and Janet.
Sadly, Kathryn died in 2010 and their daughter, Janet Wuertz, passed away in 2011.
His daughter, Jeannie Vaughan lives in Avon and daughter (TJ) and Janice Haynes reside in Delaware. His son, Jim and Pam live in Shelburne, Vermont and in Green Valley, Arizona. Cecil has five grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
Today, he still resides in the home in which he was born and the home where he and Kathryn raised their family.
His pastor, Gail Angel, praised Cecil and Kathryn for their work with Key Ministries and support of missions on the local, national, and international levels.
“Since I have been pastor, I’m impressed with how he is interested in the health of the church,” she said. “He’s very supportive of all the new things that are happening.”
Susie Peyton, Cardington mayor, praised Cecil for his work with the village while serving as mayor. “Since serving in that capacity, I can understand the challenges he encountered, especially during the rebuilding from the tornado. He really stepped up. Of course, we are grateful for his donation of the Maxwell Park land.”
James 3:18 says, “But someone will say “you have faith and I have works. Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works.” Cecil Maxwell is the perfect example of a man whose faith has been demonstrated through many, many works.
He will be honored during an open house reception from 2 to 4 pm Sunday, March 3, at the First United Methodist Church, Cardington.