By Karen Cornelius
On Friday, August 25, there was a small gathering around the city administration building at the corner of Main and Liberty Avenue. It was a re-dedication of the building with a plaque mounted on the building’s front to officially name the city’s local government headquarters as the “Ray Full Building.”
Mayor Eileen Bulan explained that she was repaying a debt of gratitute to the late Ray Full who passed away in 1985. She was recently reminded that back in 1984, Vermilion City Council and then mayor Hobart Johnson passed an ordinance to rename the building in honor of Full who was one of Vermilion’s most outstanding citizens, an astute businessman, benefactor, and civic leader. Somewhere along the way, that promise slipped through the cracks until Ray’s wife, Dawn Full, asked the mayor if she thought that would even happen. Finally, after 33 years, the good deed was done with Dawn, her friends, neighbors and former mayor Johnson and his wife, Karen, attending the August 25 ceremony and later dinner at the Vermilion Boat Club to celebrate and remember Ray Full.
For those who never had a chance to know Mr. Full, he at one time had the most successful commercial fishing company on Lake Erie, Kishman Fish Company, those now long gone red barn fishing houses and weather-beaten fishing tugs that dotted the Vermilion River and were the subject of paintings and photos tying together the city’s 100-year history with the love of fishing and the lake. Those glory days were over for Vermilion in 1984 when the state legislature banned gill net fishing and bought out all the commercial operations. There was an auction in 1985 for the Kishman fishing equipment, nets, and furnishings and then the obsolete historic fish buildings were torn down to later be replaced by the Fisherman Bend condominiums.
At the time, it was said that while Full was the historic link who channeled the spirit of the pioneering fishermen and farmers who settled Vermilion and continued their vision into more modern times, he also knew the importance of growth and progress for the city he loved. He turned his attention before his death to tourism and sport fishing to help Vermilion’s economy. He created the Festival of the Fish with other volunteers to promote his hometown far into the future. In 2017, the festival celebrated 50 years.
The 1984 council ordinance also recognized Full for his part in encouraging the Erie County Bank to donate its building constructed in 1913 to the city for government offices. Full was known for his other contributions to the city as well giving exemplary counsel to governments at all levels. He was a member of many city, county and regional governmental and civic welfare groups motivated by a desire to improve the living standards of his community on behalf of his fellow citizens. He always found time for compassion and meaningful contributions to those who were in need of his advice, leadership, and guidance.
The 1984 ordinance stated the renaming to the Ray Full Building was “a permanent and perpetual honorarium to Mr. Ray Full who is hereby officially recognized as an outstanding and exemplary benefactor and citizen of the City of Vermilion, Ohio as a result of his zealous contributions to said city and the entire Greater Vermilion Area throughout the past several decades.”
This everlasting tribute was a wonderful moment for Full’s widow, Dawn, who will be celebrating her 100th birthday in January of 2018. She, too, emulates her husband’s spirit through her long lasting community service and two terms on Vermilion City Council as well as her philanthropic works including 20 years on the Community Health Partners Regional Foundation Board, now Mercy.
Dawn also forged a little history herself back when it was unusual to be a college graduate, a pilot, and an airway traffic controller. As a traffic controller in Cleveland in 1942 she met her late husband who was at the time an aircraft and engine mechanic. They were married in 1947. During Vermilion’s 175th Birthday celebration in 2012, she was recognized as the city’s royalty, the queen, and the late Albert “Jim” Hart was the king.
“I was happy to have recognition given to Ray at this time,” said Mrs. Full at the renaming ceremony. “I appreciate mayor Bulan and those who came to the lovely dedication.”