SIDNEY — The Fairlawn Local Schools Alumni Banquet will held at Fairlawn Local School in the auditorium on Aug. 27. Four people will be inducted into the Fairlawn Hall of Honor.
Chris Elliott from the class of 1987, Keith Putnam from the class of 1966, and Brenda (Fiebiger, class of 1982) and Bob Short, a community member, will be inducted into the hall of honor. Each inductee will be introduced by someone close to them and will then receive a plaque. Deann (Elliott) Cooper will be presenting for her brother Chris Elliott posthumously. His wife and children will be accepting on his behalf. Jim Chrisman will be presenting for Keith Putnam, and Kara (Short) Spicer will present to her parents, Brenda and Bob Short.
Growing up in the 70’s Chris Elliott had a normal childhood. His love of baseball began at an early age. When he was 4 years old, he would carry around his bat and ball hoping to find someone to play with him. Every summer he played in the Youth Baseball program in Sidney. He also played two years of American Legion baseball following his junior and senior years of high school.
Elliott was an average student in school and when the time finally came for high school sports, he enjoyed playing basketball, golf and baseball – his studies were not a top priority. His senior year he was named “Shelby County Player of the Year” in baseball.
Elliott never thought a lot about what he would do after graduation until he received a phone call from Chuck Boerger, the baseball coach at Concordia College in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was interested in Chris playing for their team. After a visit to campus and meeting with the coach, Chris decided he wanted to do this. He sent in his application, it was accepted, and he received a $500 baseball scholarship.
It was because of baseball he went to college. It was because of the scholarship, which had a grade point requirement, his outlook on studying changed. And then he would meet Gretchen – his future wife.
Following graduation, he came back to Sidney where that fall, he was a teacher at Fairlawn. The following summer, as he and Gretchen were to be married in November, he moved to Monroe, Michigan, her hometown, where she was (and is) a teacher in the Monroe School system. Elliott began teaching at St. Matthew’s Lutheran School in Westland, Michigan. After two years at St. Matthew’s, he moved onto Flat Rock school system in Flat Rock, Michigan where he would spend his remaining years.
Elliott taught middle school science, physical education and health. He was also a mentor to his fellow teachers. Additionally, he was the middle school’s football, baseball, volleyball and boys and girls basketball coach. He had previously coached the Flat Rock Varsity Baseball team for 16 years, winning the State Championship in his fourth year of coaching. Somehow in between all these things, Elliott earned his master’s degree in Education from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota. To his students and players Elliott was more than just a teacher or a coach. He took a genuine interest in their education and well-being, making an impact on their lives in a very personal way.
The couple raised three children who have come to love sports as much as their parents. He enjoyed watching them play and assisted in coaching them when they attended Holy Ghost Lutheran School. He left Flat Rock’s Varsity Baseball team following the 2013 season to have more time to follow his kid’s athletic careers. He still managed to stay in coaching with a variety of middle school sports and served as a high school football official.
Elliott was very active in their church. He was Holy Ghost Lutheran’s former Executive director and was the assistant executive director at the time of his death.
He was a friend to all. A selfless and caring person who maintained contact with many people from his past and would reach out to them if he thought they needed someone to listen.
On Feb. 19, 2021, Elliott fell ill with COVID. Four days later he was admitted to the hospital because of low oxygen level. He fought many problems for almost two months. During this time his Facebook page was filled daily with many comments from students, former students, parents of both, friends and acquaintances. He lost his fight on April 19, 2021.
An article in The Monroe News later that same day told that Flat Rock schools would close the following day to honor their beloved teacher and coach. Flat Rock Superintendent Andrew Brodie commented “He meant everything to our district. There are very few students over the last 20 years who he hasn’t touched as a teacher or coach. He coached everything from girls Middle School volleyball to a state baseball championship. He was the quintessential educator. Closing the district for a day seemed like a fitting tribute.”
The Athletic Director commented “Mr. Elliott touched so many lives. He impacted the whole community. It’s crazy that this even happened. Anytime you needed Mr. Elliott, he was there for you.”
He coached Flat Rock’s baseball team 16 years, including the 2001 season where they entered the tournament with a 10/11 record but won the Division III State Championship. Flat Rock had some great athletes on that team, but it was Elliott who held it all together. Four of the players on that team also commented in the article.
One commented “He was such a positive force. He kind of let us do our thing as the leader of the team. He let us enjoy ourselves and have fun. When I think about him, I think about class personified. I was fortunate enough to have him as a teacher in junior high, then obviously as a coach in high school and as a friend later in life. He was a classy guy. He cared about you like you were a member of his family. He was a big-hearted guy.”
The second said “Chris was relaxed and laid back, but when it was time to work, we knew we had to work.”
A third commented “He was a great coach; somebody I would want my kids to have as a coach. He was just a great all-around guy, a real selfless person. It was not about him. It was always about everyone else. It’s a very sad day for all of us.”
The fourth commented “He had a great understanding of baseball, but a greater understanding of people. Nobody ever said a bad word about him as a human being. He was one of the best human beings I ever met. He was in education for the right reasons. You never talked to Chris Elliott when he had a bad day. If he did, he didn’t let you know about it. You always walked away after talking with him with a smile on your face.”
Who would ever have thought that this regular kid from Fairlawn would become so important to a community and to their school system and that he would end up touching so many lives? It all began because of his love for baseball that took him to college.
Keith Lee Putnam, the son of Don and Katie Putnam grew up in the country on a grain farm in Green township Shelby County where he attended and graduated from Fairlawn Local Schools in 1966. After graduation he attended The Ohio State University where he was enrolled in the Navy ROTC program. While there he took military indoctrination classes and was active in the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity. Before his graduation he was inducted into the Men’s Physical Education Honorary where he was elected to serve as their president. In March 1971 he was commissioned an Ensign in the United States Navy and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Physical Education.
Putnam began his Naval Career at NAS Pensacola where he began his quest for his “Wings of Gold” as a Naval Flight Officer. After Pensacola, he and Jeanie traveled to NAS Glynco, Georgia, to NAS North Island and NAS Miramar, San Diego and NAS Alameda in San Francisco where he completed his flight training 15 months after his commissioning. He was assigned to Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron One based out of Guam to fly as Navigator on the carrier based EA3b “Skywarrior.” He flew highly classified electronic reconnaissance missions throughout the Pacific for his two and half-year stint.
Ltjg Keith Putnam flew 42 combat missions during “Operation Linebacker” in the Vietnam war and was awarded the Air Medal for meritorious achievement during flight. After completing his tour overseas, he was assigned to Naval Aviation Schools Command in Pensacola, Florida, where he served as a Physical Fitness Instructor assigned to train Aviation Officer candidates. During this time, he attended the University of West Florida where he earned a Master of Science degree in Recreational Management.
Upon completion of his tour, he left active duty and returned home to Ohio and soon afterwards became a middle school Science teacher and coach at Anna Local Schools where he taught for 30 years. Beyond the school day he mentored numerous teachers in the Shelby County teacher’s mentoring program, taught adults in the Adult Basic Education program at Upper Valley JVS and earned a Master of Science degree in Educational Administration from the University of Dayton.
Although he left active duty, his service time was never interrupted while he was teaching. He affiliated with VP-93 a Naval Aviation Reserve Squadron at NAS Selfridge Detroit where he requalified to fly as a Navigator on the P-3B “Orion” flying operational patrol, anti-submarine and drug interdiction missions. For sixteen years he flew missions throughout the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea including operational combat missions in “Operation Maritime Guard” during the Bosnian Herzegovina conflict. After wearing the uniform for 27 years, he retired in 1993 as a Commander.
Putnam served three terms on the Fairlawn Local School Board. He has served on the Board of Governors at The Ohio State University Navy ROTC Alumni Association, the Shelby County AAA Motor Club and the Sidney Memorial Building. He is a member of the GreenView United Church of Christ, the order of Free and Accepted Masons, Military Officers Association, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Association United States Navy and was actively involved with the” Vets to DC” group who honored Shelby County veterans by taking them to Washington, DC to see their memorials.
Keith married his high school sweetheart Jeanie Pulfer, a 1967 Fairlawn graduate, and they have been married for 51 years. They have two children, Jodi and Jay, both graduates of Fairlawn in 1994 and 1995. Jodi Markwood and her husband Travis have two children, Kate and Clay. Jay and his wife Becky have two children Alli and Fynn.
Since their retirement, Keith and Jeanie enjoy spending their snowbird time at their home in Venice, Florida and traveling. Keith actively still bicycles and has ridden bike on numerous group tours throughout the United States. He enjoys fishing and rarely misses attending a home Ohio State football game in the “Horseshoe.”
Bob and Brenda Short
Bob and Brenda Short own and operate B&B Ag-Vantages, Inc., an agricultural retail business in the Fairlawn Local School District. B&B is located on the same property that Brenda’s grandparents started a seed business on in 1936. The third and fourth generations of the family are still supplying local growers with seed, as well as fertilizer and other important growing products.
Bob and Brenda have three children, Kris Short, Katlynn Geuy and Kara Spicer, all of whom are Fairlawn graduates. Kris and his wife Tracy have two children, Lily and Paige, who are students at Fairlawn. Kara and her husband, Ryan have one child, Magnolia, and are expecting their second child this fall. Their children will also attend Fairlawn one day. Katie currently lives in Indiana but plans to relocate back to this area in the future. Two of their children, Kris and Kara, have worked at the business for several years, and are transitioning into the next business owners.
In addition to raising their kids in the district, Bob and Brenda have been very active at the school for many years. They are original members of the Ag Advisory Committee, working with the vocational agricultural instructor and Future Farmers of America. Through the years, B&B has hired FFA students to work through the summer to get job experience. Bob and Brenda have honorary degrees from the Fairlawn FFA. Bob has participated on the committee to hire a new Vo-Ag teacher when the position came open. They are two of the five community members that formed Go Jets Inc. to raise funding for athletic supplies when the new school was built so the athletes could have nicer equipment than was allotted for in the new construction funding.
A few years after graduation from Fairlawn in 1982, Brenda coached junior varsity volleyball at the school for six years. Bob and Brenda have spent many hours at sporting events, working concessions and the game entrance, and were recognized by the Ohio High School Athletic Association as Outstanding Fans of Fairlawn Local Schools. Brenda’s parents started providing the mini basketballs for cheerleaders to throw at games in the early 1970’s, a tradition B&B has continued.
Bob and Brenda have supported many activities at the school, such as program ads for the musical and donating to the annual Fall Festival. They participated in the mentoring program for elementary students and were co-chairmen and treasurer of the junior/senior prom when two of their kids were in high school.
One of the most rewarding things Bob and Brenda have been able to do through B&B Ag-Vantages is to support the local kids at the Shelby, Miami and Champaign County Fairs. The ongoing family business has a combined 54 years of supporting the junior exhibitors at the Shelby County Fair. We have been able to purchase animals and support our local farmers’ kids that have supported our business over the years.
Bob and Brenda live, work, farm, and attend church in the Fairlawn Local School District. They love to spend time with family and friends, go to the lake, travel, and watch the crops grow. As much as they like to go places, they enjoy coming back to this great community they call home.
About the evening
The evening begins with registration from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. The meal is being prepared by Leslie Huelskamp. Those attending will be honoring local veterans and a collection will be made to give to Shelby County Veterans Services.
The 50-year alums from the class of 1972 will be honored. The theme for the banquet is “Time in a Bottle” and there will be a slide show created by the class of 1972.
The cost of the meal is $18 if registration is received prior to Aug. 20. After Aug. 20, the cost of the meal is $23.
If alumni didn’t get a form in the mail they can email Jenny Cardo at [email protected].