Local Peace Heroes

LOCAL PEACE HEROES

Dayton citizens and organizations recognized for promoting harmony in our communities and peace around the world.

Jeanne Comer, Dayton Peace Hero 2011

Jeanne Comer (left) with Charlotte Paugh. Credit: Dayton International Peace Museum. Used with permission.

Jeanne Comer (left) with Charlotte Paugh. Credit: Dayton International Peace Museum. Used with permission.

Jeanne M. Comer, née Kuncl, was born August 1, 1923, in Omaha, Nebraska. She met Orville Comer in Collinsville, Illinois, just before World War II. They married there in 1941. After Orville returned from the war and completed his degree, they moved to Dayton, Ohio. Orville accepted a teaching position at the University of Dayton. Jeanne eventually took a position as an executive secretary with the Northrup Corporation, where she worked for 18 years.

Jeanne became interested in Friendship Force after reading an article about the group in 1979. Friendship Force is an international organization that promotes peace through person-to-person exchange visits. Members stay in the homes of local families in countries around the world. Jeanne saw value in the “friendship goal.” She attended Friendship Force’s second annual convention in 1979, and worked to establish the Friendship Force of Dayton.

The Dayton chapter got off to a rocky start. Comer began organizing its first exchange with the United Kingdom. Over 100 people signed up as ambassadors for the June 1980 exchange. Many who signed up were teachers. Unfortunately, the English hosts cancelled the exchange. A substitute exchange to Cali, Colombia, was quickly arranged. It was scheduled for May when school would still be in session. Comer lost the majority of her ambassadors due to this change. With encouragement from both her husband and Friendship Force, Comer pressed forward. She gathered 100 ambassadors for the trip to Colombia in a short amount of time.

Since then the club has participated in numerous trips. One highlight was the 1996 visit to Sarajevo to celebrate the first anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords. The Dayton Peace accord was signed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on December 14, 1995. This agreement ended the three-and-a-half-year-long Bosnian war. Thirty members of the Friendship Force of Dayton went on the 10-day trip, including Jeanne’s 17-year-old grandson. Witnessing the remaining devastation had a profound impact on the ambassadors. Of her grandson’s experience, Jeanne remarked, “I returned with a young man wise beyond his years.”

Friendship Force of Dayton is now the oldest and largest Friendship Force club in Ohio. It has won awards as both U.S. Club of the Year (1997) and Top Friendship Force Club Worldwide (2002).

Jeanne’s many awards for promoting peace include Dayton’s Top 10 Women (1983), the Rosalyn Carter Friendship Force Lifetime Achievement Award (1999), Dayton Walk of Fame (2000), and recognition by the Dayton International Peace Museum as a Dayton Peace Hero (2011).

Jeanne served as a shining example of the difference one person can make. She died November 23, 2012, two years after her husband. Eight children, 25 grandchildren, and 25 great-grandchildren survived her. Less

References

Jeanne M. Comer: Obituary. (2012, November 26). In Dayton Daily News online. Retrieved from http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/dayton/obituary.aspx?page=lifestory&pid=161259120

Moss, M. (2012, November 26). Jeanne Comer, founder of Friendship Force, dies at 89. In Dayton Daily News online. Retrieved from http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/news/local-obituaries/jeanne-comer-founder-of-friendship-force-dies-at-8/nTF6M/

Who we are. (n.d.). In Friendship Force International online. Retrieved from http://www.friendshipforce.org/index.php/who_we_are

Margaret Peters, Dayton Peace Hero 2012

Margaret Peters. Credit: Dayton International Peace Museum. Used with permission.

Margaret Peters. Credit: Dayton International Peace Museum. Used with permission.

“You need to know what people did in the past.”

That’s been one of Margaret Evelyn Peters’s maxims for most, if not all, of her life.

In an interview with a Dayton International Peace Museum volunteer, Margaret said that by understanding what really happened in the past, we could achieve more in the present. Specifically, knowing the accomplishments of our ancestors helps inspire our own achievements. Likewise, the possession of accurate, historical facts about people who are different from us helps us develop positive opinions about these different people. These conditions contribute to justice and peace.

Margaret was born March 12, 1936, in Dayton, Ohio, where she has lived her entire life. Her parents helped shape her interest in history. Her mother, Mary Margaret Smith Peters, wrote poetry and stories about her life in Virginia. Her father, Joseph Andrew Peters, graduated at the top of West Virginia Institute’s class of 1917; for his graduation, he wrote a speech about the contributions black people made in American military history. Both were active in the NAACP; her father, a WWI veteran, was president of the Dayton Unit NAACP from 1923 to 1926.

“I was surrounded by people who loved history,” Margaret said.

Margaret graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1954, and then attended the University of Dayton. She studied history, English, and Spanish. Over the course of 20 years, she earned two bachelor’s degrees, one master’s degree, and a supervisor’s certificate.

Dayton Public Schools hired Margaret initially as a remedial reading teacher. In the late 1960s, people began pushing to include black history in the curriculum. At a citywide conference on the issue, Margaret stepped in as a substitute for the featured speaker who was unable to attend and delivered her own presentation. She so impressed those in attendance that she was asked to become the black history resource teacher for the district.

Margaret’s last assignment with Dayton Public Schools was at Colonel White High School where she taught English and social studies. She retired in 1993 but remains active in her church and the community.

Margaret has written extensively, and her works include The Ebony Book of Black Achievement and Dayton’s African-American Heritage. Since 1995, she has also written a weekly column for the Dayton Weekly News. And she has been the recipient of many national, state, and local honors. The Dayton International Peace Museum named her a Peace Hero in 2012.

Of her accomplishments, Margaret is most proud of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Program; the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Art, Poetry, and Prose Contest; and the impact she’s had on the lives of her students.

“Learn what’s already been done, not just by Martin Luther King Jr., but the whole civil rights struggle,” Margaret said when asked what advice she would give young people interested in promoting justice and peace. “Get involved with a group whose methods and objectives you agree with because it’s very difficult to do anything by yourself.” Less

References

Dayton Unit NAACP Annual Report. (2014). In naacpdayton.org. Retrieved from http://www.naacpdayton.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=section&id=22&Itemid=120

Fender, K. (2015, February 17). Local author keeps Dayton black history alive. In Dayton City Paper online. Retrieved from http://www.daytoncitypaper.com/a-history-of-overcoming/

Margaret Peters. (2006, March 20). In The History Makers online. Retrieved from http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/margaret-peters-41

John Moore, Dayton Peace Hero 2014

John Moore. Credit: Dayton International Peace Museum. Used with permission.

John Moore. Credit: Dayton International Peace Museum. Used with permission.

Community leader John E. Moore Sr. was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on January 11, 1923. He and his family moved to Dayton the following year, and Dayton has been his home ever since. John attended Dayton Public Schools, and then studied business administration at the University of Dayton and the Ohio State University graduate center located in Dayton. He served in the Army Air Corps for three years and is a veteran of World War II. John worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base until his retirement in 1979. Over his 35 years as a civilian employee, he rose to the position of chief of civilian personnel.

After his retirement, John began volunteering in the community, stepping into leadership roles that promoted justice and peace. His experiences in the military and in civilian life before civil rights legislation served as motivation.

“You didn’t need much inspiration to know that there was a problem,” John said in an interview with a Dayton International Peace Museum volunteer.

In his work as a volunteer, John has stressed the importance of diversity and the need for inclusion and equal opportunity.

“If you have diversity and equality and respect for one another, the fiber of the community is much stronger, and the economics are better,” John said, adding, “You have less peace when you have separation and lack of contact.”

John has provided leadership to many organizations in the Dayton community, including the Dayton Foundation, the Out-of-School Youth Task Force, and the Montgomery County Job Center.

As chair of the Dayton Foundation governing board, John helped develop the African-American Community Fund, which sourced contributions from the African-American community. In the past 20 years, the fund has contributed more than $5 million to local non-profits. As an executive committee member of the Out-of-School Youth Task Force, John helped dropouts find new, alternative educational programs. He also helped develop strategies to keep children in school and interested in learning. The Montgomery County Job Center, which John helped form, has grown to be the largest employment and training center in the United States. It serves half a million customers each year, and it has gained international recognition for its success.

Of his accomplishments, John is most proud of the Dayton-Montgomery County Scholarship Program, which awards between 600–700 scholarships each year, and the Mound Street Academies, which successfully cut its dropout rate by half in five years.

John remains active in the community. He is currently working on a project to strengthen the Mary Scott Nursing Center. When asked what he plans to do next, he laughed and said, “At 92, you don’t make long range plans.”

The Dayton International Peace Museum named John a Peace Hero in 2014 in honor of his leadership in youth, education, health, and civil rights. Less

References

African-American Community Fund. (n.d.). In The Dayton Foundation online. Retrieved from http://www.daytonfoundation.org/aacf.html

Emeritus board member John E. Moore Sr. looks to the community’s future. (n.d.). In The Dayton Foundation online. Retrieved from http://www.daytonfoundation.org/moore.html

Overview. (n.d.). In OhioMeansJobs|Montgomery County online. Retrieved from http://www.thejobcenter.org/about-us/overview.html

Peace museum to recognize peace heroes. (2014, January 7). In Dayton Daily News online. Retrieved from http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/news/local/peace-museum-to-recognize-peace-heroes/ncfQ7/