So long, June Gregg, Bainbridge’s finest ambassador
Saturday, April 8, 2017 8:01 PM
It is almost impossible to think of the Fall Festival of Leaves in Bainbridge without also thinking of June Gregg.
June was born in June. The first time we met more than 25 years ago, she told me that she was named for her birth month.
The fact that June was born in June isn’t all that unique. But the fact that she was born on June 2, 1911 – yes, 1911 – is rather unique, when considering she lived to be 105 years old and just two months shy of reaching 106 years old.
According to the Smith-Moore-Ebright Funeral Home in Bainbridge, who is serving the family, June Rodes Gregg passed from this life at 2 p.m. Friday, April 7, 2017 at The Laurels of Hillsboro.
She was born June 2, 1911 in Ross County, the daughter of the late Gilbert Storms and Amy Rodes Gregg.
June grew up on Storms Station and graduated from Bourneville High School. She was an 81-year member of the Order of Eastern Star Chapter 419 of Chillicothe. How about that?!
And she was the last original member of Bainbridge Fall Festival of Leaves Committee – which is how I came to know June.
Shortly after the conclusion of the Highland County Fair each September, June and one of her friends (most likely her driver, whose name I should recall) would stop by the newspaper office and provide information on the Fall Festival of Leaves. She would have everything prepared – from the queen candidates’ biographies, to the food, rides and entertainment.
In fact, June spoiled us. She made covering the Fall Festival a relatively easy task.
Former Highland County Press writer Brandy Chandler (who is now a practicing attorney in Columbus), had this to say about June not that long ago.
“Chances are, if it has happened in Bainbridge, June Gregg can tell you about it,” Brandy wrote. “She has witnessed nearly every aspect of small-town life in her time as a shopkeeper, post office worker and movie theater ticket-taker. With a memory like an elephant, June said she got an interest in tracking down the history of her family from her mother, Amy Rodes Gregg, who was from Bainbridge.”
"People seem to just come to me for information," June said with a laugh. "I think it's because they think I'm the oldest person in Bainbridge, but I didn't come here to live until 1940. I started looking for my own family history, and then I got into the habit of keeping an eye out for information about families I knew," she said.
June was born in Storm Station, which was named for her great-great-grandfather, Johnny Storms, who settled the area.
She was a 1929 graduate of Bourneville High School off U.S. 50 just east of Highland County. She attended a one-room school house, as well as The Ohio State University.
When she moved to Bainbridge in 1940 during the Great Depression, she worked in Rodney Grey's General Store for 10 years. Later, she worked at the Bainbridge Post Office.
June supposedly “retired” in 1976 at age 65.
However, her community service did not retire. It continued in pure June fashion, with her enthusiasm and always friendly demeanor. She remained an active member of many clubs and organizations, including: the Bainbridge Fall Festival of Leaves Committee, the Bainbridge Senior Citizens, the Bainbridge Historical Society, the Order of the Eastern Star 419, and the genealogical societies for Highland, Ross and Pike counties.
And she wrote letters to the editor of this newspaper. Boy, howdy, did June write letters.
Some time back, I wrote in this column that John Wayne didn’t need a cell phone and neither do I. The last two cell phones I had in my possession met their ultimate demise in rather sudden and abrupt fashion. In other words, I busted them all to pieces. Haven’t had one since 2002.
June got a heckuva kick out of that column. She said she saved it. And then she made a copy of it and wrote to me asking if it’s still true that I do not have a cell phone. I immediately responded that yes, indeed, I am the only man alive without a cell phone.
I still have no plans to own one of those godforsaken devices.
Last June, on the occasion of June Gregg’s 105th birthday, Eileen Hatfield wrote this for The Highland County Press:
“The jewel of Bainbridge, June Gregg, is waving her flag and having the time of her life, celebrating her 105th birthday this week. This lady joined the Memorial Day parade and celebration and enthusiastically invited everyone to participate.
“Want to know something about local history? June is right there digging out the information.
“On June 1, 2016, she was the center of attention when a carry-in lunch was held at the Bainbridge Senior Center in her honor, along with the dedication and acceptance of a 6-foot x 6-foot picture from SALT (Seniors & Law Enforcement Together). SALT was generous enough to sponsor the framing. The glass was purchased from Cooper Glass at a discounted price. The frame was made by Paint Valley FFA from raw lumber donated by Knisley Lumber on Potts Hill Road.
“Bainbridge Senior Center President Patsy Montgomery reported she and Bainbridge Senior Center members would love to display the picture at their facility. Thus, the dedication and acceptance of the picture was on June 1, 2016 by veteran’s spokesperson Jim Houghland and the oldest SALT member, 105-year-old June Gregg.
SALT wrote: “June Gregg has been a very generous member, lived a very active life and is still doing her part at 105.” The picture portrays seven things:
• Abraham Lincoln statue;
• A large eagle;
• Iwo Jima;
• Golden Gate Bridge;
• Washington, D.C. Capitol Building;
• Mount Rushmore; and,
• The American Flag.
“Bainbridge Senior Center is proud of the display, generously donated by Joyce Knisley.”
Another one of my favorite June Gregg stories is this one on the celebration of her 100th birthday in 2011.
As of June 2011, June was still using a bank savings account that was opened in 1913. Her bank account was the same one her father opened for her in January 1913, when she wasn't even a year-and-a-half old.
June still had the little blue savings account passbook from when the account was opened with an initial deposit of $6.11. Her father, Gilbert, was a farmer who grew corn, wheat and hay, and was a Savings Bank customer who wanted his only daughter to learn thrift, the Associated Press reported.
Two years ago, HCP columnist Steve Roush shared this about June: “It’s often been said that you learn something new every day. If that’s true – and I truly believe that it is – then Bainbridge historian June Gregg has to be about the smartest and wisest person I know. After all, June will be turning 104 years old in … you guessed it, June. She has witnessed roughly 37,950-some days. (By comparison, I’ve been alive roughly 15,400-some days.)”
June had a grandfather who lived to be 102 years old, and several other relatives who celebrated birthdays past 100. So maybe it’s no surprise that she made it to within two months of 106.
As Brandy wrote: “June is the embodiment of a life well-lived, with years of work and happiness ahead.”
When asked the secret to living a long life, June said it was simple.
"Work hard. Stay young. That's what I tell everyone. Take advantage of being young and don't get old.”
Then she smiled and laughed at her own philosophy on life.
And what a great philosophy – one that began prior to the first World War and continued to 2017. June, you are a true treasure, and you will be missed. Heaven has yet another angel. You earned your wings long ago.
Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.