Lena, Ohio, is an unincorporated community in Miami County with a brief Wikipedia entry that lists one “notable person”: A.B. Graham, the founder of 4-H. Lena is also the home of Mr. Graham’s Museum 4-H Club, and these notable 4-H members spent the past two years creating a special legacy that honors their namesake.
The A.B. Graham Center in Lena is the former high school Graham attended prior to working in Washington, D.C., and then returning to Ohio to serve as the first superintendent of agriculture at The Ohio State University. The building is surrounded by fields and a row of towering pine trees, which Craig Lichtenberg, club advisor, is certain date back to the time Graham was actively involved in the building’s activities upon his return to Ohio.
“We know he would come back to Lena and at one point planted the trees,” said Lichtenberg. The trees stood for years until a windstorm took one of them down in 2019. “I started thinking about what my club could do with that tree. I asked the kids if they were interested in a woodworking project. I was thinking about bird houses, but they had a bigger idea and wanted to build a bench!”
In true 4-H fashion, it was a “learning by doing” project. Club member Evan Massie came up with a prototype and club advisors helped with the design, but first the tree needed to be hauled out of the field. The club met on a Saturday and under the guidance of their advisors, trimmed the tree and loaded it on a trailer. Once that was accomplished, a club member’s relative who owned a sawmill planed the board into planks.
The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the club’s work, but eventually the youth were able to begin construction by working outside at the A.B. Graham Center. They learned how to use saws to trim the boards to size and drills to assemble it. The result was not one, but two 4-foot-long benches.
This spring saw club members staining and sealing the benches to ensure their usefulness for years to come. They also faced a decision—what to do with these future heirlooms?
The 4-H’ers knew they wanted the benches to stay in the area. After brainstorming ideas, they decided to auction off one bench, with proceeds going to the center and two local organizations that benefit Miami County: the Fletcher Volunteer Fire Department and Fletcher United Methodist Church food pantry.
The second bench will remain where it began—in Mr. Graham’s Museum.