Sarah McGill was never involved in theater in high school or college, and she was never one who wanted to be onstage.
But nearly 50 years ago, the Brownstown woman joined in an effort to turn a small, quaint theater just off the square in Brownstown into a permanent home for Jackson County Community Theatre.
That began a labor of love that continues to this day.
[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]
McGill’s not even sure what draws her to giving so much of her time to JCCT and Royal Off-the-Square Theatre at 121 W. Walnut St.
"I don’t know. It’s just sort of the magic of theater, I guess," she said Wednesday shortly after the Brownstown Exchange Club gave her the 2019 Book of Golden Deeds Award.
That award, presented during the club’s 10th annual Community Service Awards Dinner at W.R. Ewing, is the National Exchange Club’s highest honor, recognizing dedicated community leaders who have given selflessly of their time, talents and resources toward making their communities better places to live.
McGill said the award is more a tribute to everyone involved in the productions at the theater.
"There are so many people that work together with the theater and with any of the other organizations in town," she said. "You’re just part of a team. It’s good to be useful."
Her place to be useful was the theater, and although she doesn’t plan on slowing down in the near future, McGill does have one wish.
"I’ve told them I just would really like to be able to come in and sit in a seat and watch a play in a few years," she said.
McGill and her husband, Dr. Joel McGill, moved to Brownstown in July 1972.
"… and from that first day, we felt at home," she said. "We were so warmly welcomed and soon learned there were an amazing number of good things happening here. And Brownstown was just the right size that a newcomer was able to feel needed and useful."
Since those early days of working to help make the theater usable, McGill has played many roles in helping it grow.
"In addition to the physical task of the theater renovation, she accepted a position on the board of directors, where she has served on and off — mostly on — for 30 years," said Joe Reynolds, the Exchange Club member who presented her with the award. "In her time with the theater, Sarah has done about every behind-the-scenes job there is."
He said a list of the tasks she has tackled over the years includes all of advertising and promotions, producing and printing the programs, handling all of the season ticket sales and obtaining and organizing props and costumes.
McGill, who also has been JCCT’s treasurer since 1981, raised two children, Andrea Casebolt and Brian McGill, and taught science to students in grades 5 through 8 in Bedford.
She also was active in two major building addition projects at the theater — one in 1988 and one in 2011.
"Sarah was at the jobsite nearly every day, doing everything from digging footers to stuffing insulation in the ceilings," Reynolds said.
McGill was involved in a recent project to place new seats in the theater, too.
She also has been a member of the local chapter of the American Red Cross; organized blood drives; served on the board of directors at Camp Pyoca for 10 years; served as treasurer of the Brownstown Fund for the Arts; and was a Brownie Scout and Cub Scout leader. Plus, she has 1,000 hours of volunteer service as a naturalist at Falls of the Ohio State Park.
Besides McGill, other award winners included Brownstown Police Chief Tom Hanner and Assistant Police Chief Joe Kelly, who received the 2019 First Responder of the Year awards for their actions on the morning of April 3 during an incident outside the police station on South Poplar Street.
Barry Rucker, 53, of Brownstown died from the injuries he sustained after police said he pulled a small handgun while resisting arrest during a domestic disturbance. Most of that incident was recorded on Hanner’s body camera, said Jackson Superior Court I Judge AmyMarie Travis.
Travis, an Exchange Club member, presented the awards to Hanner and Kelly and said the woman involved in the incident praised the two officers with saving her life.
She said the two also saved each other’s lives and possibly the lives of untold others in the community.
The two officers were faced with actual deadly force threat that morning, Travis said.
"Not something a lot of officers have to face, but when they did, they faced it with bravery," she said. "They ran toward danger and not away from it at great risk to their own lives and to their own well-being."
Other awards winners were Chester Carroll, who received the Proudly We Hail Award for flying the American flag properly; Tom Wright and Ruth Riley, who both received Community Service Awards; and the Jackson County History Center and Morris Tippin, who both received Brownstown/Ewing Cultural Heritage Awards. Bill Day accepted the history center’s award.
Claire Poulton, the club’s Student of the Year, was recognized along with the club’s five other Students of the Month, Tayler Garland, Ethan Carlin, Brooklyn Snodgrass, Cassidy Isaacs and Robbie Branaman. All six received their diplomas from Brownstown Central High School on May 25.
Alex Caffee, who also graduated May 25 from Brownstown Central, received the Accepting the Challenge of Excellence Award.
Brownstown Central Middle School librarian Karen Ault and Brownstown Central High School social studies teacher Paula Workman received with 2019 Jack Montgomery Excellence in Education Awards.
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”List of award winners” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
First Responder of the Year Award: Brownstown Police Chief Tom Hanner and Brownstown Assistant Police Chief Joe Kelly
Proudly We Hail Award: Chester Carroll
Community Service Award: Tom Wright and Ruth Riley
Students of the Month: Tayler Garland, Ethan Carlin, Brooklyn Snodgrass, Cassidy Isaacs, Claire Poulton and Robbie Branaman
Student of the Year: Claire Poulton
Accepting the Challenge of Excellence Award: Alex Caffee
Brownstown Cultural Heritage Award: Jackson County History Center (Bill Day) and Morris Tippin
Jack Montgomery Excellence in Education Award: Karen Ault and Paula Workman
Book of Golden Deeds Award: Sarah McGill