When a windstorm whipped through Oberlin on March 8, it brought down a tree at Langston Middle School.
It was no ordinary tree, and since then Langston principal Chris Frank has been on a mission to get to the bottom of a mystery.
The tree was a memorial to Robert Jimison, an Oberlin teacher who died unexpectedly in 1973. The problem is, no one at the schools knows much about him today.
“We had that crazy windstorm,” Frank said. “About 3:15 p.m. that day, I had a couple teachers staying after school with some kids and they heard a loud crack — and the next thing you know, we have a tree pushed up against the building. It broke off about six feet in the air.”
When Frank went outside to check out the damage, things began to get a bit complicated.
That’s when custodian Bob Close relayed that the tree served as a memorial for Jimison, who died at age 23.
“We want to make sure that we do everything we can to make this right,” Frank said.
He immediately began searching for any information he could find on Jimison and his family, hoping to reach out and let them know about the tree falling.
“I’ve gone to Ancestory.com, I’ve searched the Web, and I’ve made a lot of calls,” Frank said. “I’ve made calls to people with the same name and have come up cold day after day. I have not been able to find anybody who is related to him, so I could let them know the tree has fallen and what we’d like to do.”
Frank also reached out to the Oberlin Heritage Center, but its archives only had the obituary that ran for Jimison in 1973. That obituary did have the names of Jimison’s family members.
Frank is now trying to contact people with those names by email and Facebook. As of this writing, one of Jimison’s brothers had left him a message.
The school district had hoped to not destroy the tree until the Jimison family had been notified, but concerns were raised about the safety of having a fallen tree on school property at last week’s school board meeting.
On Saturday, the tree was destroyed. All that remains is a pile of wood chips behind the memorial sign.
The district plans to plant a new tree in honor of Jimison and hopes to have his family members in attendance. Until that happens, though, educators are still searching for more information about Jimison.
Anyone with any information about the former teacher is urged to email Frank at email@example.com.
Scott Mahoney can be reached at 440-775-1611 or sm_mahoney on Twitter.