The pride of Twinsburg High School athletics is the girls’ basketball program. From 2011 to 2013 the Lady Tigers parlayed hard work, determination, and great skill into a mini-dynasty, reaching the Division I state finals, three years in a row, and winning the championship on their first two trips.
It was a total team effort that carried the Lady Tigers to three straight finals, but there were two stars who shined brighter than the rest. Malina Howard, who had been receiving national attention since junior high for her hardwood prowess, was the undisputed leader of those championship squads. The six-foot-four basketball dynamo dominated the post in two straight state tourneys, rendering opposing post players defenseless, and sometimes offense-less. In 2012, the same year she led the Tigers to their second consecutive state title, Howard was named Plain Dealer Girls Basketball Player, also for the second straight season. Howard went on to become an Academic All-American at the University of Maryland.
The other star was guard, Ashley Morrissette, who fully blossomed in her senior year, when she was named Ohio’s Ms. Basketball while leading the Lady Tigers to their third straight state final. After graduating from Twinsburg High School, Morissette moved on to Purdue University. In her senior season as a Purdue Boilermaker, she leads the team with over fifteen points per game.
Possibly the greatest, or at least the most successful, athlete to ever emerge from Twinsburg is James Posey. He attended Twinsburg Chamberlin High School and was named the Division II high school basketball player of the year as a senior, in 1995. Aptly capable of playing all five positions, the versatile six-foot-eight senior averaged 24.5 points and 12 rebounds per game. After graduating from Chamberlin, he went on to star at Xavier University. He ranks sixteenth in scoring and tenth in rebounding in the history of Xavier Musketeers basketball. His collegiate success lead to the Denver Nuggets of the National Basketball Association selecting him with the eighteenth pick of the NBA draft. In the NBA, he excelled as a defensive stopper and clutch shooter for numerous teams over the course of his twelve-year career. Twice he was a crucial member of championship winning teams, first with the Miami Heat in 2006 and two years later with the Boston Celtics. Today, he is an assistant coach for the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
AFS-USA has been the leading, nonprofit organization in intercultural learning and international exchange programs for over 70 years. As of the early 1960s though, when the program was barely 20 years old, Twinsburg had never been one of the communities to participate in the program. This changed on August 14, 1963 when Inger Marie Halverson arrived from Torga, Norway and stole the collective hearts of the region. Her year in Twinsburg was spent at the home of her hosts, the Don Gilbert family.
Twinsburg’s first foreign exchange student during the 1963-1964 school year.
Inger Marie fever quickly spread across the community. Mayor Richard Lippet proclaimed her day of arrival as “Inger Marie Day”, and gave her a key to the city during a ceremony at the Village Hall. Open houses were held at the high school for the region to meet her. There was a the showing of a Norwegian film, a rare occurrence in a small Midwestern village in the 1960s. Inger Marie’s mother sent Norwegian holiday cookies and holiday decorations for all to enjoy, and Twinsburg celebrated Norwegian holidays so Inger Marie wouldn’t feel homesick. She was voted sweetheart of her class at the sweethearts dance in February of 1964, but as soon as the fervor had started it was over. At least to some extent.
During the following years letters from and news about Inger was often found in the Bulletin, including her graduation in 1966 and marriage to Bjorn Bakken in June of 1971. As the years went by though they became more and more sporadic, ending in the mid 1970s.
The Gilbert’s eventually lost touch with her, but for a time in the early 1960s Inger Marie Halverson was the most popular girl in Twinsburg.
The City of Twinsburg, though relatively young, is a wellspring of history that also offers comfort and familiarity—an area that has blossomed and evolved to include new housing developments, beautiful parks, and hubs of commerce while maintaining picturesque views worthy of a postcard. These views did not spring up overnight via the whims of mayors and city planners, but evolved with the natural passage of time to shape the cityscape we know today. Though it shares nearly 140 years of history with the Township, the city’s own unique history dates back just over sixty years. Unlike other, older villages and towns that were carved from the woods and fields of an untamed wilderness, the City of Twinsburg was created in the twentieth century by an act of political secession. The need to collect taxes from the recently announced Chrysler plant sped things along, prompting the separation of township and city and bringing jobs, other businesses, and a torrent of taxpayers to the area.
Much of the history to come would radiate outward from the square: Twinsburg Institute, Locust Grove Cemetery, family owned businesses, farms, school houses, and church after church sprang up within view. The streets lining the square, always the center of festivities. Richner Hardware, Lawson’s, and Roseberry’s took root one-by-one, providing locals with some of the amenities larger cities had to offer, with the comforts of small town familiarity.
No parking spaces to spare on a busy afternoon at the Town Square.
When new housing was needed, Glenwood Acres was created to provide it. Lowcost homes, numbering more than four hundred, began springing up in 1956 following the announcement of the new Chrysler plant. Homes would be needed to accommodate the countless new employees looking to minimize their commute to work and keep their families close. Production at the plant would begin in earnest the following year.
With each development and each alteration another farm, wooded area, and orchard would fall beneath the wheels of progress. The growing village reached the critical five thousand head count by the end of 1969, allowing it to acquire cityhood. City managers begat mayors, volunteer firemen begat paid firefighters, and mainstays of business gave way to corporations.
The 1970s would see two unique milestones come to pass: 1976 would mark the nation’s bicentennial as well as the start of Twins Days, a celebration paying homage to the Wilcox brothers, who laid the foundation for what Twinsburg would come to be. Though it began as a community-centered festival with a parade, food, contests, and a parachuting clown named Thunder Chicken, interest in the event would spread.
Area children lend a helping hand, planting flowers under the sign to Liberty Park.
The new Twinsburg High School opened in January 1999, providing students with a new learning environment when they returned from their winter break. (The “Old School” still stands, though it’s been closed for years.) The park system also received some attention, with Mayor James Karabec securing a letter of intent for the property that would eventually become the three-thousand-acre Liberty Park. The dawning of a new century brought with it many changes: some wanted, some unavoidable. Longtime mainstays like Richner Hardware shuttered their stores in response to big-box stores like Home Depot and Walmart eating away at their customer base. Chrysler, the financial backbone of Twinsburg and employer of many, closed during the summer of 2010. Economic ripples from its closure were inevitable, though the blow to the city’s tax revenues was mitigated in no small part by the foresight of former mayor Karabec, who had set in motion a plan to diversify the city’s income stream, knowing it relied too heavily on Chrysler. Mayor Katherine Procop would continue the work begun by Karabec, helping to secure new tenants and diversify city revenues. Among the new tenants operating out of the Cornerstone Business Park (site of the old Chrysler plant) are an Amazon fulfillment center and FedEx.
One of the most endearing characters in the history of the three communities is the beloved safety clown Jocko. For years, Police Officer Joe Jasany reprised the role of Jocko every spring, teaching schoolchildren and toddlers all the intricacies of bicycle safety.
Jasany first decided to don the clown outfit while his son was recuperating in the Lorain Community Hospital’s intensive care unit in 1971. Dressed in clown regalia he entertained and cheered all the sick children in the intensive care unit. Initially, the moniker for Jasany’s alter ego was “Jo Jo,” but it was former Twinsburg police chief Donald Prange who finally dubbed him “Jocko.”
Over the years, Jocko performed on numerous occasions at the WKYC Blue CrossBlue Shield Health Fair and won a statewide Governor’s Award for Juvenile Programs in 1978.
Great Expectations, formed in 1978, is the pride of Twinsburg High School and the entirety of the three communities. The nationally ranked show choir has won over 150 trophies and performed in competitions across the continental United States, spanning the country from New York to California. In 2014, they competed in their first formal national event, the Fame National Show Choir Competition in Chicago, finishing third out of fifteen accomplished companies. (In 2013 they participated in a competition against fifty-seven of the top show choirs in the nation, at which they also finished third.)
More often than not, Great Expectations emerges victorious in “Glee-style” contests featuring elaborately choreographed dance routines. Few, if any local show choirs can rival them, with possibly their greatest adversary being Solon High School’s Music in Motion. On occasion, Music in Motion has even managed to topple Great Expectations from its lofty perch.
The current directors are Randall Lanoue and Scott Hamler, but it was Nancy Slife who put Great Expectations on the choral map. Slife directed the show choir for nearly twenty extremely successful years before Lanoue took command. Under his artistic direction and the musical guidance of Hamler, Great Expectations has continued to soar above all other local show choirs and should continue to do so well into the future.
The pages of history record and recall stories and statistics of the earliest schoolhouses to dot the countryside, these antiquated institutes of learning were long vacant by the time the first truly modern school came into being. While the first centralized school brought all the students under one roof, it was the “Old School” that many remember so fondly.
The source of countless lessons learned and friendships forged, the old schoolhouse located just off the town square served the area’s children for nearly seventy-five years. Welcoming its first students in the fall of 1921, the two-story red brick schoolhouse was a replacement for the older, whitewashed building that once stood behind it. Games were won and lost, field trips were taken, and countless bells rang, signaling the end of one period and the beginning of another. For more than thirty years, the school served all grades from kindergarten through twelfth grade. The edifice, now vacant, evolved in numerous ways after closing its doors in 1992, including its utilization by Kent State University. Congressman Steven LaTourette used the space while campaigning, it was the first location of the Twinsburg Senior Center, and at one point a proposal to transform it into a perambulator museum was bounced around.
Exterior of vacant school building taken April 26, 2016.
All of Twinsburg’s current educational facilities except the new high school and the Kent State University Regional Academic Center were constructed in the mid-twentieth century, a time rampant with civil unrest and racial tensions. For those who attended area schools during this time, race relations were present, though subdued in comparison to other areas of the country. As is the case with most things though, time’s passage washed away much of the tension, as new students, new initiatives, and new administration came and went. As our world grows increasing diverse, so too does the student body. Individuals from all corners of the world converge amid the lockers and lunch tables, mirroring the melding of ethnicities, nationalities, ideologies, and opinions that occurs on the web on a daily basis. Today, most school-age students from the three communities attend school in one of five facilities:
Wilcox Primary (kindergarten through first grade)
Samuel Bissell (second and third grade)
George G. Dodge (fourth through sixth grade)
R. B. Chamberlin (seventh and eighth grade)
Twinsburg High (ninth through twelfth grade)
The newest addition to Twinsburg’s educational landscape is Kent State’s Regional Academic Center. It offers a less expensive alternative for college students from both Twinsburg and neighboring cities such as Oakwood and Bedford. The building is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified as a “green” building. Kent State University has had a presence in Twinsburg since 1991, when it began offering training and education to employees at the Chrysler stamping plant.
In 1967, to celebrate the Sesquicentennial of Twinsburg, the schools put on a production to commemorate the region’s anniversary. The production, coordinated by Richard T. Sunderland who was the Director of Music for Twinsburg Schools, featured children from virtually every grade.
The Chrysler Plant was the catalyst for great expansion in Twinsburg, with the school system being second to none in its growth. In 1960 the Wilcox Elementary School opened to serve the community and its rapidly expanding student population.
The winter of 1903 was a particularly stressful one for families in the Twinsburg area. A rash of scarlet fever cases spread across the region, forcing schools to close indefinitely. Children, more susceptible to the illness, were kept home to prevent the disease from infecting their classmates. Prior to the development of penicillin, scarlet fever was a debilitating illness commonly affecting those age five to fifteen with sore throats, high fevers, and a scarlet rash. Healthy students were also forced to stay home in 1918 and 1920 due to the spread of flu, with many taken ill. Spanish flu was a global event that caused illness and in some cases death for half a billion people.