Delaware’s first Hayes Day concluded Tuesday with a special visit from Rutherford B. Hayes himself.
President Hayes, portrayed by reenactor Paolo de Maria, stopped by Hayes High School Tuesday evening to have a discussion about his life, the city of Delaware, and his time as president. The discussion, which was one of several events held throughout the day on Tuesday in commemoration of Hayes’ 200th birthday, was hosted by Bill Rietz, chairman of the Rutherford B. Hayes Heritage Committee.
Before the discussion, a number of proclamations were read as well as a letter from the Paraguayan ambassador to the United States, José Antonio Dos Santos. A short film showing the process of having the statue of Hayes erected in downtown Delaware was also shown.
The discussion was introduced by Hayes High School Principal Dr. Ric Stranges, who said the goal of the committee and Hayes Day was to teach the community more about “its native son.”
“The mission of the committee is to bring light to this magnificent man and enlighten the Delaware community on Hayes’ impact on our country and the world,” Stranges said at the event. “Rutherford is more than a stoic statue. … This man of honor and integrity continues to influence the next generation like my students (at Hayes High School). Our mission is, and continues to be, to educate all of us on this great man who started life, like many of you, born and raised in Delaware, Ohio.”
Hayes strolled on stage and through time as “Hail to the Chief” played on the speakers in the Hayes auditorium. Rietz began the discussion by wishing Hayes a “happy 70th birthday” since the talk was set in 1892.
“It’s delightful to be back in my hometown of Delaware,” said de Maria as Hayes. “It always warms my heart. I have so many wonderful memories of growing up in Delaware. … I have so many things that remind me, which is why every time I come to Delaware, I’m excited and I’m joyful.”
Hayes detailed his time growing up in Delaware with his family and spoke fondly of his sister, Fanny, and said that they enjoyed hiking around Delaware when they were young. Hayes also discussed attending school in a home on Franklin Street before there was a city school.
“That was our introduction to formal education,” de Maria said as Hayes.
Hayes also discussed meeting his wife, fellow Delaware resident Lucy Webb, in the city, adding they did not get romantically involved until they were older and met again in Cincinnati. Hayes said Lucy was a staunch abolitionist, which helped fuel his dedication towards ending slavery.
Throughout the discussion, de Maria discussed Hayes’ career as a lawyer, a soldier in the Civil War, a congressman, and the governor of Ohio before becoming president in 1877.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.