Madeira resident receives major historical award

By Regina Villiers. Originally published June 8, 2005 in The Suburban Life, added June 16, 2020.

     Madeira resident recently snagged a major award when the 2004 Griffin Yeatman Historical Achievement Award was given to Douglas Oppenheimer for his efforts and achievements in historical preservation.

     This award is given annually by the Hamilton County Recorder’s Office to recognize outstanding historical achievement in Hamilton County.  It bears the name of the first recorder, Griffin Yeatman, elected in 1825, who was active in historic preservation.

     Rebecca Prem Groppe, the current Hamilton County recorder, came to Madeira unannounced to make the presentation to Doug at a regular meeting of the Madeira Historical Society, which was held at the Miller House Museum.

     She was accompanied by members of her staff, Matthew Carle, public relations director, and David Pittor.  This was the 11th of the awards to be presented.

     The large, quite impressive plaque bears this engraving:  “The Griffin Yeatman Award 2004 in recognition for historic achievement is presented to Douglas Oppenheimer in recognition of your commitment to historic preservation as evidenced by your extensive efforts to research, preserve, and promote historic Madeira and you continuous efforts as a leader in community education and historic scholarship.”

     This states the obvious, but Oppenheimer’s efforts to preserve Madeira history go beyond the obvious.  His dream and his fight to start a Madeira history museum go back for much of his life.

     The letter recommending him for the Yeatman Award said, “For years and years, Doug carried the Madeira Historical Society on his back.  They could have held their meetings in a closet, at times, but her had a vision and he wouldn’t let go.  Like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, he kept beating the bushes looking for members, looking for support, looking for a home.”

     Finally, he got lucky and found a home.  He moved next door to Mrs. Elizabeth Miller, and a deep bond developed between the Miller and the Oppenheimer families.  They were, and still are, like real family.  When Mrs. Miller slowed down and was ready to simplify her life and move on, she gave her house and its 1.5-acre grounds to Doug and the historical society for a museum.

     The house itself is a historical treasure.  It’s a Sears house, the “Crescent” model.  After the award ceremony, Groppe and her staff toured the house and marveled at its beauty and its pristine condition, despite four Miller children having grown up in it.

     The museum is a dream come true for Doug.  After the award ceremony that night, his wife, Ann, talked about all the years of “toil and trouble” Doug had put into it.  She voiced the opinion that the award was an “unsung hero” honor.

     Neither she nor Doug nor any member of the historical Society knew beforehand about the award, until the recorder’s office people showed up to present it.

     But no one deserved it more.  Groppe said so when she presented it to a completely surprised recipient.

     But no one deserved it more Groppe said so when she presented it to a completely surprised recipient. 

Humorist Laurence Sterne wrote in “Tristam Shandy” about tenacity: “It’s known by the name of perseverance in a good course-and of obstinacy in a bad one.”

     Using that definition, Doug’s bulldog stubbornness is perseverance, and not obstinacy.  It brought a museum to Madeira, and that is a good thing.