These 18 fascinating people we lost in 2017 made life vibrant in the Dayton area

Nov 30, 2017

A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, one of the first armed women on the Dayton Police Department and a legendary BBQ man are among the lives lost in the region this year.

Here’s a look at some of the people whose impact will continue to be felt in our communities: 

Dean Lovelace

Dean Lovelace, former Dayton city commissioner, died on May 28. CONTRIBUTED Photo: Staff Writer

Dean Lovelace, the longest-serving Dayton City Commissioner, died in May.

His political career spanned more than two decades, and in the 1980s he ran the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign in Dayton. 

In addition to his 22 years on the commission, Lovelace retired in 2009 after a 25-year career at the University of Dayton, where he was director of the Dayton Civic Scholars program.

Lovelace was committed to serving the most needy and vulnerable residents in the city, friends and peers said.

“Obviously, he was very focused on helping people,” said Dayton City Commissioner Jeff Mims Jr., who graduated high school a year later. “If there was something that you didn’t understand, he’d be the one to explain it to you.”

Mims and others cited his work against predatory lending “way before it was popular.” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said “his legacy will always be here, not only locally but nationally, his efforts fighting for the economically disadvantaged in our community.” 

Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison

Walter "Junie" Morrison (Dayton Daily News archive image) Photo: HANDOUT

Walter “Junie” Morrison, a noted producer, keyboardist and singer, died in February at age 62. 

He is credited with writing The Ohio Players’ major hits “Pain,” “Pleasure”, “Ecstasy” and “Funky Worm.” 

Morrison was a 1997 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee and was also co-creator, writer and producer of “One Nation (Under A Groove)” and “(Not Just) Knee Deep” by Parliament Funkadelic, according to his website. 

» READ MORE: Funk legend and member of Ohio Players dies

Dixie Hinders 

Dixie Hinders, who died at age 88 on April 29, 2017, was a trapeze artist in the circus, a professional synchronized swimmer and served as one of the first female police officers in Dayton. In 1956, the Dayton Daily News' Sunday magazine Camerica featured Dixie Lee Belt in a cover story: “Gal Behind the Badge.” Photo: Chris Stewart

Dixie Hinders — a circus trapeze artist, professional aquatic performer, and one of the first women to become an armed Dayton cop — died in April. She was 88. 

Not two years out of high school, the natural swimmer and trampoline artist toured Canada as part of Aqua Frolics, a water ballet production that began with Dixie diving off a four-story tower. 

In 1952, she joined the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, striking acrobatic poses on a 12-foot aluminum ladder swinging high above the floor of Madison Square Garden in New York City. 

A Dayton police officer spotted her working on the trampoline in front lawn of her West Riverview Avenue house. The officer stopped to ask her if she’d ever considered putting her athletic skills to use as a policewoman. She went through the academy and joined the force, astonished to learn starting policewomen earned the same as incoming male officers. 

» READ MORE: From circus trapeze to Dayton cop, area woman lived extraordinary life

Judge Mark W. Wall 

Middletown Municipal Court Judge Mark W. Wall, 70, died in his home in February. STAFF FILE PHOTO/2016 Photo: Staff Writer

Middletown Municipal Court Judge Mark W. Wall is remembered for being firm, but fair, during his 23-year career. He died in February at age 70. 

Wall, who graduated from Middletown’s Fenwick High School and from Miami University, earned his law degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1973. During the Vietnam conflict, he served with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade of the U.S. Army. He received several citations and awards, including the Bronze Star Medal. 

He began his practice in 1973 with the local firm of Wilmer and Wilmer. He was in general trial practice with federal, state and local courts along with probate and real estate law. 

» READ MORE: Middletown Judge Mark W. Wall dies at 70

Jerry Gillotti 

Jerry Gillotti,  the iconic co-founder and owner of Gilly’s, died on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 23. He was 80. Photo: Ron Alvey

Jerry Gillotti, the iconic co-founder and owner of Gilly’s, died on Thanksgiving Day at the age of 80. 

Gillotti, a 1962 University of Dayton graduate, bought Wedgewood Inn on Patterson Road in 1969 and featured jazz acts there two years before he and his brother purchased the former site of Green Derby at 801 N. Main St. and transformed it into Gilly’s. He later relocated to downtown Dayton. 

Jerry Gillotti “was one of a kind, really focused on supporting musicians, treating his customers fairly, and providing a quality level of jazz and blues beyond anything we could ever expect,” said Gary Leppla, Gillotti’s attorney and friend. “So many musicians owe so much to him.” 

» READ MORE: Dayton icon Jerry Gillotti, Gilly’s nightclub owner, dies

Bob Sweeney

Longtime Dayton radio DJ Bob Sweeney has died. Sweeney worked at WHIO Radio and MIX 107.7 during his career in Dayton radio. Photo courtesy of Kristi Leigh. Photo: arobinson262

Bob Sweeney, a legendary Dayton DJ, died in October. He was 71. 

Sweeney was the co-host of the morning show at Mix 107.7. Known for his wit and gift for gab, Sweeney previously worked for WHIO Radio, where he hosted “Conversation Piece” and the afternoon drive, and also appeared on WHIO-TV. 

“He was one of the wittiest DJs I knew,” Larry Hansgen, the host of Miami Valley’s Morning News, who joined WHIO in 1981 and worked with Sweeney for about eight years, said. 

“It really came across on air, but he was shy in public. The real Bob is what you heard on the air. The warm, quick witted guy, that’s the Bob I knew.” 

» READ MORE: Wildly witty Dayton DJ legend dies

Keith Edward Wilder 

The funk band, Heatwave, circa 1979.  Keith Wilder is second from the right.  Photo: Handout

Keith Edward Wilder, a vocalist in the Dayton/London, England funk band Heatwave, died in October. He was 65. 

The band achieved wide acclaim with hit songs "Boogie Nights," "Always and Forever" and "The Groove Line." 

A 1979 car accident made the shining star a quadriplegic, but he continued to make music his life, working with students at Central State University. 

“He was a really good family man,” Billy Jones, Wilder’s cousin and bandmate, said of the Chaminade High School graduate. “He loved his family.” 

» READ MORE: Dayton funk legend dies

Scott Walker

Scott Walker worked as an extra to drive a car in downtown Dayton during the filming of the ‘Old Man and the Gun,’ starring Academy award winners Robert Redford and Casey Affleck. Amelia Robinson photo Photo: Staff Writer

Weeks after driving his vintage El Camino as an extra in the Robert Redford movie filmed in downtown Dayton, Scott Walker, 54, a retired Dayton street maintenance worker, died in May. 

Walker had also been featured in the news as a winning  trivia contest player on the “Live with Kelly” television show. 

Walker won a trip to St. Lucia on “Live!” last year, and in March earned another victory when he won a seven-night, six-day trip to the all-inclusive Buccaneer resort in St Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. 

» READ MORE: Dayton’s Scott Walker dies after ‘Live with Kelly,’ Redford movie

Bruce Sucher 

Bruce Sucher

Bruce Sucher, president of the Vandalia-Butler school board and a former Vandalia city manager and police chief, died suddenly while attending a University of Dayton men’s basketball game in Pittsburgh in March. 

Sucher, 70, was a community leader in Vandalia for 40 years, since his hiring as a city police officer in 1976. Sucher served as police chief for four years in the 1980s, then was Vandalia City Manager from 1988 to 2004. The city’s justice center and expansive recreation center were built under his leadership. 

“He did amazing things here. His fingerprints are all over this town,” Rich Hopkins, Vandalia communications manager, said. 

“In every way shape and form, he was a top-notch guy who loved this community and busted his butt for this community. We’re all very grateful for what he’s done for us and obviously very sad and hate to see this.” 

» READ MORE: School board president dies at UD game

Howard “Huffie” Huffman III 

Mary and Howard "Huffie" Huffman III

Howard “Huffie” Huffman III, a former Dayton police officer and legendary Dayton BBQ man who for years cried “Cheesesteaks! BBQ Ribs!” on Courthouse Square in downtown Dayton, died in January. 

Dayton resident Tommy Owens Jr. called Huffman, the co-owner of Huffie's Bar-B-Que, a mentor and godfather. 

“Huffie would feed us. He would talk to us about staying out of trouble,” Owens recalled of growing up near the restaurant at 925 McArthur Ave. “He would constantly talk to me about community. He would talk to me about my responsibility.” 

» READ MORE: Legendary Dayton BBQ man, police officer, dies, remembered as champion

Jesse Jemison

Jesse Jemison, a 1970 Middletown High School graduate, died in February. He was 65. Photo: Staff Writer

Jesse Jemison, a former high school basketball and University of Cincinnati standout who later traveled the world playing with the Harlem Globetrotters, died in February. 

Jemison, a 1970 Middletown High School graduate, scored the first points in the Paul Walker Gym at Middletown High School and was a standout for the Middies, according to his brother, Doug Jemison. He played on the freshman team at UC, then lettered for three seasons. 

Jemison played for several years with the Harlem Globetrotters and was on the same team as Meadowlark Lemon. 

» READ MORE: Former Middie great, Harlem Globetrotter dies after long illness

Jim Foreman 

Jim Foreman at a Chamber of Greater Springfield Networking at Night event celebrating the showroom renovation at his car dealership in 2012. Staff photo Photo: Staff Writer

Jim Foreman, a self-made man who rose to be one of the leaders driving economic development in Springfield and championing charitable causes big and small, died in February. He was 76. 

Foreman was the longtime owner of a downtown car dealership, finally selling Jim Foreman Buick, GMC, Cadillac in 2015.

Foreman also served on the Chamber of Greater Springfield board for several years, including as chairman, and was one of the key leaders behind keeping the Navistar plant in Clark County, the development of the Prime Ohio Corporate Park and the downtown Clark State Performing Arts Center. 

“Anything that had to do with positive growth in this community, he was involved in … He was part of the group that just had a huge and lasting impact on the community,” said Tom Franzen, assistant city manager and Foreman’s nephew. 

» READ MORE: Springfiled businessman who led big economic develpment efforts dies

Nathan Robert “Rosie” Rosengarten 

Nathan Robert “Rosie” Rosengarten, one of the Air Force’s original UFO hunters, died March 15. He was 101. 

In 1951, Rosengarten was made a Lieutenant Colonel and placed in charge of Aircraft and Missiles at the Air Technical Intelligence Center, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The center’s responsibilities included investing UFO reports. 

In September 1951, Rosengarten, who was investigating UFO sightings, took steps that led to the initiation of Project Blue Book. For the next 18 years, Project Blue Book investigated more than 12,000 UFO sightings. The project was retired in 1969, and WPAFB no longer receives, documents, or investigate UFO reports. 

» READ MORE: One of the Air Force’s original UFO hunters dies at 101

Czeslaw “Chet” Makiewicz 

Czeslaw “Chet” Makiewicz, a Polish Air Force bomber gunner who survived being shot down at the outbreak of World War II and forced into slave labor by Hitler’s secret police before living in Dayton, died on Feb. 24, 2017. He was 98.

Czeslaw “Chet” Makiewicz, a Polish Air Force bomber gunner who survived being shot down at the outbreak of World War II and forced into slave labor by Hitler’s secret police before settling in Dayton died in February. 

Makiewicz was born in Poland in 1919 and graduated from the Polish Air Force Non-Commissioned Officer School in 1938. In 1939, his plane was shot down. Locals kept him hidden and helped Makiewicz recover from severe burns to both hands and face, but the Gestapo found and arrested him in 1942. Before Makiewicz was put in a prison camp where he was used as slave labor on various farms, he was interrogated for any Polish Air Force intelligence. 

In May 1949, Makiewicz, his wife and two daughters immigrated to the U.S., first moving to Nebraska. While there, he learned the plumbing trade, and they then moved to Dayton in 1956, signing up with the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 162. 

» READ MORE: Dayton man survived bomber crash, burns, Gestapo in extraordinary life

Marilyn Collmer 

Marilyn Collmer, who managed the BizTech Center in Hamilton for 10 years, died Jan. 7 at Hospice Care of Dayton. BizTech Center is now known as Hamilton Mill. STAFF FILE/2009 Photo: Staff Writer

Marilyn Collmer, who managed Hamilton’s BizTech from 2003 to 2013, died in January. 

Collmer’s career began in social service work and transitioned into division director of the Lima Area Chamber of Commerce, then director/certified business analyst for the Hamilton Chamber Small Business Development Center, and owner/manager of Franer Apartments and president of Marilyn Collmer and Associates. 

She stepped down as manager of BizTech after 10 years because it was “time to go for more challenges in my career,” she said in a 2014 interview with the Journal-News. 

During her tenure, more than 31 businesses “graduated” from the program by growing strong enough to operate independently and move out of the center into the local area. 

» READ MORE: Former Hamilton business leader dies

Jack Gordon 

Jack Gordon, of WPFB radio in Middletown, the longtime radio voice of Middletown High School football and basketball, is pictured at Wade E. Miller Gym in Middletown in 2009. Gordon died Saturday, Jan. 28, at the age of 85. STAFF FILE/2009 Photo: Guest Columnist

Jack Gordon, who spent his life around football and enjoyed nothing more than Friday nights on the sidelines, died in January. 

Gordon, a 1949 Hamilton High School graduate, played football at the University of Cincinnati and was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams. Instead of playing professionally, Gordon chose a career path than included a 24-year coaching career, high school teacher and radio broadcaster. 

Affectionately called the ‘Ol’ Coach,’ Gordon was an assistant football coach at North College Hill for five seasons, then one season at Lima. 

He made his mark in Middletown, where he coached the Middies for 18 seasons, compiling a 116-59-1 record and producing 11 All-Ohio players. He also served as assistant coach under Paul Walker for one season. 

» READ MORE: ‘Ol’ Coach’ Jack Gordon loved football ‘more than life itself’

Robert J. “Bobby” Schuster 

Robert “Bobby” Schuster died  Jan. 29, at his Hamilton home. CONTRIBUTED Photo: Staff Writer

Despite a life altered by a sports tragedy, Robert J. “Bobby” Schuster spread laughter, love and encouragement to those whose lives were less — and more — fortunate than his, friends and family say. 

Schuster died in February at age 63. 

Schuster, a lifelong resident of Hamilton’s Lindenwald neighborhood, was educated at St. Ann School before graduating from Badin High School in 1971. 

The following year, on May 2, 1972, he broke his neck during a softball game while playing the outfield. He ran into an unpadded light pole and was paralyzed. Doctors estimated he would live 10 years.

He beat those odds, and in the decades that followed, he graduated from Miami University and encouraged not only those who were paralyzed like himself, but also gave perspective to people who thought they were having a bad day. 

» READ MORE: Hamilton man, whose life was altered by sports tragedy, dies at 63

Caleigh Hildebrandt 

Caleigh Hildebrandt with her Air Force Marathon medal. Photo: columnist

Caleigh Hildebrandt, known as Little Miss Sunshine, died in October. She was 24. 

Despite being confined to a wheelchair because of spina bifida and undergoing over 40 surgeries, some life-threatening, Hildebrandt inspired many. 

She worked at McGohan Brabender in Moraine as the CHO — Chief Happiness Officer. Her main task was to cheer up her fellow workers and she reported straight to the founder and former CEO, Pat McGohan, who dubbed her “Little Miss Sunshine.” 

She also raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Dayton Special Wish chapter participating with her father – pushing her in a jogging stroller as he ran, in the U.S. Air Force Marathon.

» READ MORE: ‘Little Miss Sunshine’s’ marathon ‘was great for all of us’