A top Dayton hospital official and an Olympic gold medalist who had a long career at Dayton Public Schools were honored as Dangerous Dames on Thursday by the League of Women Voters of the Greater Dayton Area.
The annual awards went to Debbie Feldman, president and chief executive of Dayton Children’s Hospital, and Lucinda Williams Adams, a retired teacher and administrator for Dayton Public Schools who won the gold medal in the 400 meter relay race at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
A separate award was given to two women who are fighting to take back their neighborhood from drug dealers and to clear away dumped garbage and dilapidated housing.
Riverdale Neighborhood Association President Victoria McNeal and Lynn LaMance, of the Five Oaks neighborhood, were highlighted this month in Dayton Daily News stories about five mysterious deaths of women whose bodies were found in yards and alleys of neighborhoods off North Main Street in Dayton. The League gave McNeal and LaMance the the Jo Columbro Environmental Award, which included gift certificates to buy things they need in their beautification efforts.
Susan Hesselgesser, league executive director, said she hopes the award “will help them with the work they are doing in their communities. These women are a ray of hope (and) maybe our award will lead to more support for them in the future.”
McNeal and LaMance patrol the neighborhood and alleyways, picking up trash, reporting open vacant buildings that need boarded, painting over graffiti, and talking to prostitutes about getting help for drug addiction. LaMance regularly emails property owners about dilapidated buildings needing repaired.
“These two ladies, they’re the perfect citizens,” said Montgomery County Phil Plummer at the awards ceremony. “Because we always tell people, please be our eyes and our ears and help us out. They’re living in a very tough neighborhood that we can bring back.”
The Dayton Daily News investigated the deaths of five women, four of whom were found within blocks of each other on Ernst, Hudson and Norman avenues, and the fifth on Superior Avenue, between June 2017 and January 2018. The coroner declared three of them to be homicides, one an overdose and one an undetermined cause of death. Dayton Police continue to investigate and Crime Stoppers offered a reward for information on the homicides after the newspaper’s investigation was published.
Feldman and Adams received their Dangerous Dames of Dayton awards at the league’s annual fundraiser, held at the NCR Country Club. They are the 16th and 17th recipients of the award.
In her acceptance speech Feldman said she wanted to draw attention to the needs of children and the state’s poor national ranking for infant mortality and childhood immunizations, the growing mental health needs for children, declining access to health care, the rate of gun violence involving children and the need for more early childhood education.
“Only 40 percent of Ohio’s kids come to kindergarten ready for success,” Feldman said, who previously served as Montgomery County administrator. “And many of our school children will never catch up.”
She urged people to support the new Vote for Ohio’s Kids initiative, founded by Ohio’s childrens’ hospitals and Groundworks Ohio, which seeks to drive a “kid’s first” agenda beginning with the 2018 Ohio gubernatorial campaign.
“Our children have no voice. They have no vote. But we do,” Feldman said.
The group will invite all candidates for governor to a forum in Columbus on Sept. 27.
Adams, who brought her gold medal for people to see, said she had been raised to “try to do the very best that I could do.”
“Dreams are made,” said Adams.
Raised in Savannah, Georgia, she said she did not have the same opportunities today’s girls have. But she recalled being told, “if you are willing to listen and to learn and to work hard and use your God-given talent you will be able to make a difference.”
Adams said she felt she had done that in her years working for Dayton Schools. She fought for equal pay for the women’s team coaches and said that when she “fought hard to get sex education they called me the ‘sex lady’” but it didn’t stop her from advocating for that curriculum.
Years down the road people won’t remember a person’s money or possessions, said Adams, “but they will remember if you touched their lives.”
More stories by Lynn Hulsey