FAIRBORN — Paul and Connie Newman will make their rounds talking with friends and getting acquainted with those less familiar during Fairborn’s annual Sweet Corn Festival.
It is their duty to do so, after all, as the pair have been named the 2016 Sweet Corn Festival King and Queen.
And after more than three decades of supporting the community, placing the sashes over their shoulders and asking them to cut the ribbon and open up the community’s annual event makes sense.
“I think it’s that sense of belonging someplace that we both have,” Paul said. “Where we feel our belonging is, is in Fairborn.”
The Newman’s arrived in the community 31 years ago. Paul went to work as the senior associate athletic director at Wright State University, while Connie served as the administrative assistant for the Wright State Campus Ministry.
Their involvement with the Fairborn community started when Paul joined the Fairborn Rotary Club 29 years ago, serving as its president in 1990. The pair also belong to the Fairborn Lions Club.
Connie, an educator, dedicated a number of years to teaching kindergarten-aged students how to read at the Fairborn Preschool and Day Care, in which she now serves as the board chairperson.
Paul additionally volunteers his time to organizing community outings alongside committee members responsible for hosting Fairborn’s Fourth of July events, annual downtown car show and the Flyzone for the Air Force Marathon. He also played an instrumental role in getting a piece of steel from the former Twin Towers in New York City to the Fairborn community to be displayed as the city’s 9/11 memorial near the National Center for Medical Readiness at Calamityville. He got involved in the Fairborn Area Chamber of Commerce, first serving on its board of directors as a representative of Wright State, as board president and later as its executive director. His voice has also provided The National Anthem at several community events.
Connie was recently selected as the co-volunteer of the year at the Fairborn Senior Center, working alongside others to raise funds to purchase a new bus and helping the trips hosted by the Fairborn Senior Center go swimmingly. She also serves as the bingo coordinator through Wright Nursing Home and the Fairborn Senior Center for individuals living at the Fairborn Senior Apartments on Central Avenue. She additionally participates in patient-simulated programs at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. She also helped establish vision testing within Fairborn’s kindergarten classroom, working alongside the Fairborn Lions Club as she did so.
“I just do a lot of different things,” Connie said. “Anybody who needs something, I’m willing to help.”
But their story starts long before they became Greene County citizens.
It started when they were freshman in high school, living six blocks from each other while sharing Conneaut, Ohio, as the same hometown. Fifty-one years later, the Newman’s tell their story together, helping each other fill in the missing pieces and reminiscing about how long they have been a couple, completing each other’s sentences as they do so.
They are called “mom and dad” by their three children: Michele Puterbaugh, a social worker within the City of Dayton; Scott, of Wright State Physicians and Paul Jr., the executive director of the Fairborn Area Chamber of Commerce and soon-to-be Greene County Economic Developer Director. Sam and Mya Puterbaugh are their grandchildren.
Fairborn became their home after discovering the downtown area, reminding them of their own hometown.
“When we got to downtown Fairborn, we looked around and said ‘my goodness — it has a downtown, it’s like our own hometown,’” Paul said. “It really was like a mirror of our hometown. That’s why we fell in love with Fairborn.”
Outside obligations had kept their family from spending holidays together since their children were in high school. That is, until Thanksgiving dinner three years ago. Scott and Paul Jr. had lived in New York for a number of years, but missed the sense of community that’s hard to find in the city that never sleeps. Scott stood up and announced that he was moving back to the Dayton area; Paul Jr. stood up and announced the same thing. Connie wiped tears from her eyes as her husband told this story. They now spend every holiday together as a family.
“Her prayers forever were for her kids to come home,” Paul said. “It was unbelievable that our family was altogether.”
And after spending more than a half-century together, they’ve had time to figure out “the secret”, or what works for them.
“Tell each other you love each other when you wake up and when you go to bed,” Paul said. “We do that everyday, and we do things together.”
“Everyday,” Connie echoed.
Reach Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.