WILMINGTON — What would you tell your 9-year-old self if you met him or her today? Would you have advice? A piece of wisdom to share?
Port William native Gene DeVoe reflects on those questions regularly as he drives through the streets of downtown — his portrait is one featured in the nearly-completed Main Street mural.
DeVoe’s image and personality are captured in the art, a snapshot from nearly 85 years ago when DeVoe was just nine. And while he hasn’t changed much—he still sports wide-rimmed glasses and a farm-kid smirk—he is the only living person depicted in the painting.
“We have a lot of memories living here. I am very proud,” said DeVoe, seated at the dining table with his 96-year-old brother, Fred, and sister, JoAnn. They spoke about their past and, through their words, brought the nine-year-old boy to life.
DeVoe spoke about his past, his life on the Grassy Run Farm. Millia Bone is the grandmother of Gene and Carl DeVoe, also each pictured on the mural. Gene’s grandfather, Thomas, died in 1911 but Millia carried on and bought a farm of her own in 1914.
In the 1930s, running a farm as a single mother was not only difficult but also not very common. Yet, Millia continued the farming, along with her four daughters, Ada, Maybel, Beatrice and also pictured on the mural, Edith Bone. Beatrice, Gene’s mother, lived on the farm alongside her husband, Charles DeVoe.
The siblings reflected together on the simplicity of life at that time.
“You could go on a date for a dollar,” DeVoe said. Family and friends could “see a movie at the Murphy for 20 cents, go to the White House restaurant for 10 cents, and get gas for 14 cents — and that was your date right there.”
After 57 years of farming, DeVoe retired but continued to work and help the neighbors with their farms. He spoke about raising beef cattle, and on grain and hog farming. Among those at the dining table, the wealth of farm knowledge seemed limitless.
“It was 1969, and I sold 330 head of hogs in one day. That was a lot of hogs,” said DeVoe. “Of course now-a-days it’s just a drop in the bucket. I probably got 20 cents for 100 hogs, but today, you could probably get around 80 dollars for that.”
Artist Jason Morgan, from Yellow Springs, has now completed his fourth mural for downtown Wilmington. This mural is unique because it brings to life Century Farm faces connected to the 16 registered Ohio Century Farms of Clinton County. Morgan has logged nearly 500 hours of work on the project.
Main Street Wilmington plans to have a celebration in the fall to officially unveil the mural and to tell the stories that the images hold.
For DeVoe, the mural is more than just an image. It is a flurry of memories brought to life on a wall for all to see. And yet he remains humble.
“Now, why they picked me, I don’t know,” he said.
Bekah Muchmore is Executive Director of Main Street Wilmington.