I heard the sirens in the town square on June 7th, signaling the parade was beginning for Thomas Edison.
The bronze replica of him holding a light bulb, that is.
Almost seven feet tall and weighing 900 pounds, he rode on a flatbed truck behind an escort of police, sheriff, and fire department vehicles. In the small village of Milan, it was a big deal in the middle of the day. Families showed up. Couples walked over with their dogs. I stood at the edge and eavesdropped about the years required to gain a place for Edison in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. To represent Ohio, he had to win the vote over the Wright Brothers, Olympian Jesse Owens, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
A pretty good group of rivals, if you ask me. Go Ohio.
The parade stopped at the house where he was born in 1847. The story goes that Edison had a life long appreciation of Milan, where he lived until he was seven years old. I could well imagine how many petitions, phone calls and meetings were required to gain recognition for our hometown boy. As folks lined up to have their pictures taken with the statue, none of that sticky red tape mattered anymore.
The statue’s champion seems to have been another native son, Don Gfell, who stood on the truck and acknowledged all the local patrons who contributed to the cause. I don’t know Don, but he owns Sights and Sounds of Edison, an antique shop specializing in all things, well, Edison. His brother Tom, who I do know, speaks proudly of Don’s lifelong appreciation of the famous man.
Every valuable effort takes someone to believe, to convince, to persist. In fact, Edison himself said: Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
When the last picture was taken, the parade moved on to the Milan Public Library where the statue will summer until heading to Washington.
As the truck turned the corner, Don swayed. Reaching up to balance himself, his hand rested over Edison’s.
There it was.
Just two Milan boys, side by side, headed down Front Street together. I couldn’t resist smiling. For both of them.
Edison also said: What you are will show in what you do.
You don’t have to be an acclaimed inventor to accomplish something great.
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