NEW PARIS — Despite the many people who came together to bring the project to fruition, there was one person at the foundation of all the contributions used to construct the Joseph K. Slone Agriculture Education Center at National Trail Schools.
“The one person that deserves our eternal gratitude,” NT Superintendent Jeff Parker said on Friday, Sept. 16, “is Joe Slone.”
Parker was one of several speakers during a dedication ceremony for the new ag center and greenhouse, what will forever live on as part of the late National Trail agriculture educator’s “awesome legacy,” according to Parker.
“He cared,” Parker said. “He cared about the kids, what they were and what they would become.
“Everything NTFFA did was first class,” he added. And for that reason, the greenhouse and agriculture education center which will forever bear his name is also first class, according to Parker.
Miami Valley Career Technology Superintendent Nick Weldy said Slone had the unique talent of “educating students without them realizing they were learning.”
“The crop Joe planted is wide-reaching,” Weldy told those in attendance. “And it will benefit National Trail for many years to come.”
Amy Weaver, president of the National Trail FFA Alumni Association, said that Slone was so important to the program and its participants, that they wanted to honor his memory with a memorial scholarship in his name. The group presented the first Joseph K. Slone Memorial Scholarship to Suzanne Kimball at this year’s FFA banquet.
Slone used to say “Don’t tell me the barn needs maintenance, tell me what color to paint the barn,” according to Weaver. For that reason, the plaque presented to Kimball was in the shape of a paintbrush.
Kimball called Slone a “mentor and a motivator.” “He never gave up on me and never let me give up on myself,” she said.
Weaver and Kimball invited donors to help provide for the perpetual scholarship fund. The goal for the association is $10,000. The account is currently has approximately $6,000, Weaver said.
Bill Bowers, a National Trail graduate and former FFA member himself, represented Monsanto and presented the district with a check for $10,000 for the project prior to the unveiling of the sign and dedication of the center.
“There were so many times that wanted to build a greenhouse,” Slone’s daughter, Jessica Helsinger said after the dedication. She said he had tried with smaller ones over the years, structures which didn’t withstand the weather. So it’s only fitting he will now be forever linked to the new facility at Trail.
It is very special, according to Helsinger, because when she and her family drive by, “My daughter knows it’s Papaw’s building,” she said.
“It’s huge that he won’t be forgotten,” Helsinger said.
Slone, 56, died at his home in March 2014. He taught Agriculture Education and had been FFA advisor at National Trail High School since 1983.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.