David Trinko: Ghostly fight to combat illiteracy

There may be ghosts haunting the Lima Adult Learning Center, where the Lima Literacy Council calls home.

Fortunately for the people helping adults learn to read there, they’re friendly ghosts.

“With what we do with literacy, I feel like if we’re haunted, it’s a friendly haunt,” said Ken Blanchard, director of the Literacy Council. “They like what we’re doing. They support what we’re doing. It’s not like we’re creeped out.”

Blanchard isn’t convinced the place is haunted. Stacy Perkins, an investigator with the Ohio Ghost Crew, is absolutely convinced.

“In the building, what we have found is some footsteps, some like ghostly footsteps, that are on carpet but sound like hardwood floors, and that doors slam,” Perkins said.

Blanchard added, “Yeah, I can attest to that.”

Perkins continued, “When I’ve been there — I’ve stayed there before — we’ve had the scent of lavender whiff by me.”

People can decide for themselves, as the Ohio Ghost Crew will spend two weekends investigating the building at 563 W. Spring St., Lima. They’ll take 12 people each night to visit the home. Only a few of the spots remain for March 4-5 and March 18-19. Register online at j.mp/3uoYxt3, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Literacy Council.

People wanting to support literacy with a little less fear tolerance can also sign up for the 16th annual Word-building for Literacy, a team Scrabble event scheduled for noon to 3 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church’s Genesis Room, 1300 Edgewood Drive, Lima. Register at 419-223-0252 or by visiting LimaLiteracy.net.

The Literacy Council purchased the former home of Clair M. and Lulu Tolan in 2009. The interior was renovated, bringing out some of the surprising beauty of the unassuming white home built in 1903 and 1904 near downtown Lima.

The Tolans were certainly interested in literacy. Clair Tolan was the son of the founder of what’s now the Delphos Herald, and he eventually became vice president of that company. He also worked in banking. They were active in society, appearing in the society columns of those days as joining the Wemmers, Diesels and MacDonnells for parties among Lima’s elite in those days.

Clair Tolan died Saturday, Aug. 13, 1932, at the age of 70 after a five-year fight with an undisclosed illness. His widow survived and stayed in the house until she died Oct. 19, 1954, at the age of 90.

If they’re the ones haunting the place, they got the staff’s attention a few years ago. A loud disagreement happened in the second-floor hallway between two people, when the heavy door to what’s now Blanchard’s office and what was once Clair Tolan’s bedroom slammed shut without explanation. That ended that argument and raised questions about who else might be in that building.

The Ohio Ghost Crew will bring along some artifacts from the couple to try to coax them out on those two weekends in March.

“We have access to their love letters they did before they were married,” Perkins said. “We have her wedding dress here too, to see if we can kind of increase that energy and that spark, showing the events that were there.”

They don’t interrupt the daily efforts made to increase literacy in the community, Blanchard said. While there are plenty of volunteers, the Literacy Council struggles with bringing in people who admit they need the help.

“It’s not easy to admit you can’t read,” Blanchard said.

Nationally, more than 30 million adults can’t read, write or do basic math beyond a third-grade level. It’s exacerbated by COVID-19’s effect on people’s education.

“Our issues have not gotten any better. It’s still one in six across the county reading at the third grade or level or below. … It’s a pandemic that’s hasn’t gone away and has been with us way too long.”

Ken Blanchard, of the Lima Literacy Council, looks out the window of his office, the former bedroom of Clair Tolan. A walkway connects the rooms of Clair and Lulu Tolan, who built the home in 1903-1904 and may still haunt the building.

David Trinko is editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at dtrinko@limanews.com or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.