“It’s really a great day,” Portsmouth Mayor Jane Murray told the audience. “We have some incredible people to honor today. Some are with us and some are smiling down on us, knowing that they have been a huge participant and part of this community for many many years.”
First up was local historian and author Edna Keffer is best known for having written four books on the Boneyfiddle district of Portsmouth, and for her contributions to historic advancement in the city of Portsmouth.
The second person to sign was long-time professor, historian and documentarian, Dr. John Lorentz, who retired several years ago from Shawnee State University.
“It’s a great honor,” Lorentz told the Portsmouth Daily Times. “I’m very proud to be a part of Portsmouth and the history of Portsmouth. It’s a great city, and I really feel with this honor that I have loved this city and this city has loved me back.”
Lorentz is best known for the documentary “River Voices,” about the 1937 flood.
“I believe there is a greatness to this city and my work on the documentary film has actually shown that to me very clearly,” Lorentz said. “This city has been through many ups and downs over several hundred years, and it has always rebounded. It has always come back. The people of the city have always come together through hard times and made a better future for their city and the citizens of Portsmouth.”
Dan Coffee, whose mother, Zola Coffee, is the sister of the late Major League Baseball player Stan Spence signed for his late uncle.
Spence was born in South Portsmouth, Kentucky, and played center field for the Boston Red Sox, the Washington Senators, and the St. Louis Browns from 1940 through 1949.
Charles Varney, best known as a music educator who taught at Wheelersburg and Portsmouth High School, as well as served in an adjunct position at Shawnee State University, died this past year, and was represented at the signing by his wife, Geneva Varney.
“I think it is a long time coming because my husband did so much, and he wasn’t bragging about it. He did so much for the community,” Geneva Varney said. “I’ve had my friends say, ‘I didn’t know he sang 40 years at the Jewish Temple’ and they went on to say these different things, and I said that’s just the kind of person that he was. And I am very thrilled today that it is finally a reality that his name will be on the floodwall. I’m very pleased.”
Each person was taken by boom truck to the star for the signing as people snapped photos to capture the historic moment.
“These are the kinds of things we need to celebrate in our community,” Murray said. “So we can celebrate our history and our tradition and our culture and our people.”