Smithville Ruritans celebrating 55th anniversary June 17

Smithville Ruritans celebrating 55th anniversary June 17
Dottie Sines

Philip Gresser, left, Willis Troyer and Charles Hostetler are members of the Smithville Ruritans and will celebrate the club’s 55th anniversary on June 17. The Ruritans installed and maintain the village’s “Welcome to Smithville” signs.


The Smithville Ruritan Club invites everyone to join in the commemoration of its 55th anniversary on June 17.

The celebration will feature an open house with a display on what the club is all about. Guests will be treated to cake and other desserts, as well as beverages. Small commemorative items will be given away.

“We want people to know who we are and what we do,” said Rick Dilyard of Smithville, president of the Smithville Ruritan Club, “and we’d like to generate interest in joining the club, particularly among younger people.”

Ruritan is a national civic service organization founded in Holland, Virginia in 1928 with the slogan, “Fellowship, Goodwill and Community Service.” According to the Ruritan website, its purpose is to “create a better understanding among people and, through volunteer community service, make America’s communities better places in which to live and work.”

The organization has nearly 25,000 members in more than 900 communities. The name is a combination of the Latin words for open country, “ruri,” and small town, “tan,” interpreted as pertaining to rural and small-town life. Ruritan rarely initiates national programs; rather, each club determines how it will respond to its community’s needs.

The Smithville club was chartered in 1966 — replacing an existing local organization with a similar purpose, the Promoters Club — and by 1975 was the second-largest Ruritan club in the nation with 118 members.

Membership has since declined, due primarily to long-term members having passed away, and now totals 31. The three-member board, comprised of Randy Porter, Cathy Rolf and Willis Troyer, meets the first Thursday of each month, and the regular club meeting is held the third Thursday of the month.

Younger people haven’t shown a great deal of interest in recent years, according to Dilyard. “We want to let young people know about what we do and come to appreciate the contributions they can make to their community,” he said.

Dilyard is in his seventh term as president, having been with the club for approximately 25 years. For him, the social interaction is only one advantage of membership.

“It’s fulfilling to see our projects come to fruition and to realize the impact you have as a club over time,” he said. “It’s about the community service.”

Some of the many ways the club addresses the needs of the Smithville community are providing high school senior scholarships, financing FFA members’ attendance at leadership conferences, helping fund youth baseball and the two local 4-H clubs, and supporting a Boy Scouts troop for the past 55 years.

The club also installed and maintains “Welcome to Smithville” road signs, lights the community Christmas tree, plans the annual Memorial Day parade, and cleans up roadsides in the spring.

One of the club’s most lasting legacies is its part in establishing the Veterans Memorial in the Smithville park. Members served on the committee and worked with the village council and park board to develop the memorial, which was dedicated in 2015.

Dilyard’s wife, Susan Dilyard, is in her fourth year as a member and currently serves as treasurer, alongside Brian Woodward, vice president, and Henry Blubaugh, secretary. Philip Gresser of Wooster currently serves as chaplain.

Gresser claims the distinction not only of being one of the original charter members of the club, but also of having perfect attendance at the meetings these 55 years. Born and raised in the Smithville area, he said this is the only organization to which he belongs now.

“I try to do my best,” Gresser said. “It’s well worth it. It’s local; it’s community.”

As for funding their projects, Ruritan members personally do the legwork, taking tickets at the Wayne County Fair and manning the local recycling center of the Solid Waste District, for which the Smithville Ruritan Club established the pilot center. Their compensation for these tasks all goes toward benefiting the community. The club also holds pancake breakfasts, the next one scheduled Saturday, June 19 from 7-11 a.m. at Smithville Brethren Church, 193 E. Main St.

The 55th anniversary celebration will take place Thursday, June 17 from 6-8 p.m., also at the church. All are welcome at both events.

The Smithville Historical Society is hosting an informational display on the Smithville Ruritan Club at its Downey Pioneers Visitor Center at 381 E. Main St. through June. For additional information on the club, call Dilyard at 330-464-2490 or email

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