Historical Society Pays Tribute to Jeanne D. Tyler; Receives $1M Gift

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Nearly two years after her death and on what would have been her 97th birthday, Jeanne D. Tyler continues to give.

The Mahoning Valley Historical Society on Monday unveiled a portrait of the philanthropist, along with a $1 million gift her estate bequeathed to the organization, during a tribute ceremony at the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center downtown.

“She’s ensuring our success into the future for many generations,” said Bill Lawson, executive director of society at a ceremony Monday.  “This is a great, important day for our historical society.”

Tyler, a tireless advocate of community service in the Mahoning Valley, died on Sept. 24, 2019, at age 95. In 2011, she contributed $500,000 as the lead gift to begin development of the Tyler History Center, and the new portrait now hangs in the center’s lobby.

Her $1 million gift will provide another $500,000 for operations and programs at the Tyler Center and another $500,000 to support programs at the Arms Family Museum of Local History along Wick Avenue, both owned by MVHS. 

“We are investing this into our endowment funds, so it’s perpetual,” Lawson said. “Jeanne was one of our greatest supporters in her lifetime.”

Attorney James H. Sisek, a longtime friend of Tyler’s, spoke of her lifelong passion for supporting endeavors such as historic preservation, animal charities, cultural institutions and quality of life projects.

“Jeanne was very interested in the preservation of Youngstown history,” he said. “She was just a real goer.  She always said that she wanted to ‘wear out, not rust out.’”

Throughout her life, Tyler contributed her time and money to institutions such as Youngstown State University, Mill Creek Park Fellows Riverside Gardens, Stambaugh Auditorium, Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County, Planned Parenthood Association of Youngstown, the Youngstown Hospital Association, the American Red Cross, and many other organizations.

“She was just full of energy,” Sisek said.

Sunny Masters, Tyler’s cousin once removed, said she would be honored that her portrait now adorns the lobby of the Tyler Center. 

“Jeanne was like no other person I knew,” Masters recalled. “She was independent, forceful and had all of the Mahoning Valley at heart.  She always volunteered,and as a volunteer she always contributed and shared her thoughts.  And, she was almost always right.”

The Tyler Center is a special part of her legacy as it reflects her passion for preserving history, Masters said.  The center was opened in 2017 in the former Harry Burt building, where the Good Humor ice cream bar was invented.  The building was also the longtime home of the Ross Radio Co.

Masters said that Tyler felt the selection of the Burt Building was significant in that it presents a direct connection to the city’s past and is today a landmark in which residents of all ages can enjoy.

“Jeanne was a leader in thought and action,” Masters said. “She had influence and she knew how to get things done. “She never did anything for her own benefit. She was thoroughly invested in the Youngstown area.”

Exhibits at the center touch upon the Mahoning Valley’s first settlers, local sports, business and cultural gems, such as Idora Park.  Indeed, Tyler’s grandfather, Charles Deibel, once owned and managed the park for a number of years. 

Tyler, who also served as president of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society for 12 years, was “fully invested into this organization,” Lawson said.  

Lawson added Tyler also served as role model for executive leadership, and everyone in the Mahoning Valley benefits from her efforts today. 

“I can’t say enough about how important that was to me in my role at the Mahoning Valley Historical Society,” he said.

Pictured: Mahoning Valley Historical Society Executive Director Bill Lawson dedicates a portrait of long-time supporter Jeanne D. Tyler. Her estate recently bequeathed a $1 million gift to the society.

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