Tecumseh Room renamed to honor Susan F. Gray


By Meladi Brewer


GREENVILLE — Susan F. Gray was honored with the re-dedication of the Tecumseh Room at Prairie Days.

The dedication of the room was to honor Gray’s many years of undying passion for the Darke County Park District by renaming the special display room in her memory. The Susan F. Gray Tecumseh Room is a room at the Shawnee Prairie dedicated to teaching about the contributions of the Native American Tribes who inhabited the area in the past.

The room was overflowing with spectators who all knew Gray. Director Roger Van Frank said it was a great day for him, as he was able to see the re-dedication of the Tecumseh Room.

“I have a lot of my great friends here. Those who have made me what I am today over the last 20 years,” Van Frank said. “Each of you has a part of my life, and Susan especially has a big part of my life.”

He said those who knew Gray knew she could be impressionable, as she was hard driven and passionate.

“I don’t know anybody else who has that type of passion,” Van Frank said. “It is to my belief without Gray being here to have leadership in the early years this room wouldn’t have come to be.”

He said Gray would pound her fist on his desk saying “you got to have a Tecumseh Room,” and he felt it was only fitting to rename the Tecumseh Room after her stating it is “her Tecumseh Room.” There is a video playing in the room, all day long, that tells the story of the full circle.

“Susan said to me ‘I want bear skins, I want buffalo hides, I want skulls, I want things that the kids can play with. I was to see kids coming in here and rolling on the ground on a buffalo hide’,” Van Frank said.

The room features a hide that was tanned out west and brought back to be displayed. Van Frank said “everything you see in here, especially the three sisters: corn, beans, squash” are talked about in the video as part of the full circle of life.

The corn, beans, and squash are known as the three sisters because they will intertwine themselves into each other to help keep each other alive and help each other grow.

“This is my last thought so I don’t get choked up; all of you have intertwined yourselves in my life, and you have helped me to grow. I thank you for that, and Susan, I thank her for that. I’m just sad she’s not here to see this,” Van Frank said.

Gray unfortunately passed away in 2019 and was not able to see the Tecumseh Room in full fruition. Throughout her life, Gray devoted herself to nature and history, teaching and encouraging others along the way to protect, preserve and respect the natural world around us.

In later years, she was instrumental in the creation and organization of the Darke County Park District serving as one of the founding commissioners and was very vocal in history preservation. The room has been 12 and a half years in the making from start to finish, and to honor her and her family’s hardwork and dedication to all the programs, Gray was honored with a Kentucky Coffee Tree painting in the room, the renaming, and visitors can see a mural of her both coming and going from the room.

“Susan did not suffer fools. She either liked you or she didn’t, and you did have to prove yourself worthy. If she liked you and said you were worth her time, she would teach you anything and take the time,” a friend of Gray said during the reminiscing story telling portion of the event.

Following a few of the stories about Gray, her daughter Mary decided to say a few words.

“Growing up, cause you all know, this is my childhood like it or not, but I was hungry coming home from school or whatever, I would open the freezer. I don’t know if it was an owl, weasel, but there were more dead animals in our freezer than food at any given time,” Mary said.

Mary said she is the “most blessed child ever” to have been raised that way. She was raised by everyone who knew and worked with Gray, as they were her second family.

“I am so thankful to all who are here today to share, and we all know we could go on all day about teaching by intimidation or teaching you a lesson, but I think we were all pretty blessed,” Mary said.

She reminded everyone that Gray did not do any of her work alone, and she expressed her own gratitude for those who were walking alongside her mother during her journey.

“Thank you for coming today, for her and for me. I appreciate it,” Mary said.

One thing is for sure following the event, Gray was a “great lady, and she is missed.”

The Susan F. Gray Tecumseh Room is located at the Shawnee Prairie Preserve Nature Education Center at 4267 St. Rt. 502 W., Greenville.

To contact Daily Advocate Reporter Meladi Brewer, email [email protected].

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