GREENVILLE— Paul Gene Coning left a legacy here in Darke County upon his recent death, and many people are already missing him.
The man, whose name is synonymous with the Darke County Fair, especially two of its departments – swine and fruit and youth vegetable; the Shawnee Prairie Nature Preserve; and the Woodington Congregational Christian Church, died the afternoon of March 24, nine days shy of his 90th birthday.
An Army veteran of the Korean War serving in the U.S. Army from 1950-53, he was a 1947 graduate of Greenville High School, a 32-year employee at the Union City Body Company and a lifetime farmer and a volunteer of many organizations.
Duane “Lum” Edwards had this to say about Coning: “Paul was my school bus driver when I was in the fourth grade. I’ve known him since 1954 when I went to the one-room school in Coletown. I went to work at the UCBC in 1966 where Paul worked until his retirement. I have known him and his family a long time. He was one of the good guys. We would see each other at the fair and other places around town. Paul’s wife, Nola, worked with us on election day and, of course, Paul would come and vote and talk if we weren’t busy. Paul loved cracklings from Winner’s, and when I would get me some, I would drop some of them off to him. He lived south of me a couple of miles. Nola told me at the funeral that Paul talked about the cracklings after I would drop them off. He loved those cracklings.”
Vickie Martin, who was a neighbor and worker alongside him in the basement of the Coliseum, had this to say: “Paul was our neighbor. I have known him since I was younger. We went to church together; they live across the field from us. We farm their farm. I have worked with Paul and Nola at the fair for several years.”
Melissa Brawley, Martin’s daughter, wrote: “Paul was a wonderful friend who was our neighbor for years. He loved people and always had a smile and a hug. He saw the good in everything and everybody. I never saw him without his wife. He’s going to be missed.”
Viola Gilbert stated, “I think he was one of the kindest human beings ever … so many stories to be told. Paul was a wonderful friend that was our neighbor for years. He loved people and always had a smile and a hug. He saw the good in everything and everybody! I never saw him without his wife. He’s going to be missed.”
Nina Unger, who met the Conings when they were involved with the swine department during the Darke County Fair, said she thinks it was the 1970s when she and husband, Lowell, and the Conings came on board in that department.
“Lowell, Bill Funderburg and I started the Darke County Swine Club,” she said. “Nola and Paul made friends with everybody they came into contact with. They were so welcoming to everyone. They took over as superintendents of the swine barn. Later, they went to work in the produce department in the Coliseum. He was so good at everything he did. He was such a gentle person. My kids grew up with them and thought they were the world. Paul never had a cross word. He was so willing to show people a better, easier way.”
Unger also echoed the sentiments of others that he was always seen with his wife.
“They made a good match,” Unger said. “They would always be together. Together and individually, they were super people.”
Wife Nola is now questioning how she can continue on without him.
“We really had a great marriage,” she said. “That’s what makes it hard now. We would go to the grocery together and volunteered together for various organizations.”
She said she met the man of her life in 1950 while staying with a girl friend.
“We were snowbound, and her boyfriend came to see her and Paul was along,” Nola recalled. “That was in November, and we got married in June 1951. I was so young. I can’t say enough about him. He was always kind and used to say he had to bring me up. He was always a Christian man. He was so good to me. He managed to look over my temper. He loved me anyhow. When I look back over those 67 years, it was really a good marriage.”