By Karen Cornelius
When Vermilion marked its 175th birthday in 2012, the committee looked for royalty to reign over the event. The queen had to personify a long-time resident who was a positive example, good citizen, community leader, and contributor. They selected Dawn Full as the queen. Fast forward to Sunday, January 28, 2018 and Full was once again recognized for her 100th milestone birthday at the Vermilion Boat Club surrounded by 100 well-wishers including family, extended family, neighbors, and friends.
Those who have known Full well over the decades described her as a role model for women, strong, positive, kind, and quick witted. In her day, she was a civic leader who supported and served on the board for many local causes including the YMCA, Cleveland Orchestra, and Community Health Partners Regional Foundation. She served two terms on Vermilion City Council and served on several local city boards and joined several local organizations. She was a frequent volunteer at the Vermilion Food Pantry and occasionally still goes over to help. At her party on Sunday, instead of gifts, $1,600 in donations were given to the Vermilion Food Pantry. Many at the party traveled from places such as Florida and New Mexico just to share Dawn’s special day with her.
At 100, Full is still alert and full of quick quips. She enjoyed her party, but was humbled by all the praise. She kids about her memory being lost, but if reminded, she can fill in the details with humor. Asked what her secret is to a long, successful life, she said, “Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.” The real secret seems to be staying as active as possible. Full still plays bridge and is interested in Vermilion’s going-ons. She is a member of the United Church of Christ, Congregational and enjoys her church group, and still dines out at the Vermilion Boat Club. She sponsored a sculpture for the Ice-A-Fair this year as she always has. While she has just about traveled the world, Vermilion is her home. “Vermilion is my center. I’ve been here forever. It’s a neat town, everyone is so nice, and there are always events going on all the time,” said Full. “It’s just a good town to be in.”
Full mentioned her love of all the boatyards, the marinas dotting the Vermilion River. They seem to remind her of earlier days when she and her late husband, Ray Fall, sailed Star Boats. Ray Full was a native Vermilionite, who started as an accountant for Kishman Fish Company and over the years then became its owner with his wife in 1973. Full recalled how they met when she was an air traffic controller and Ray worked in the same hanger in Cleveland as an aircraft engine mechanic. “I sold him a war bond and he asked me for a date.” At the time, Dawn was a college graduate from Wittenberg, and pilot as well. She was the only woman in a field of men taking a civil pilot training course where she got her license. In those days she would be considered by women as breaking that glass ceiling, but to her, it was no big deal to be doing jobs that men were doing. “I just loved to fly. I got very good at forced landings in my putt-putt plane,” she laughed recalling one landing in the mud in a field near Cincinnati on her way to some races in Florida. There was no question she was adventurous and a daredevil in her youth, but she shrugged off those comparisons as no big deal.
Full additionally recalled the demise of Kishman Fish in 1983 when state laws ban gill net fishing and the commercial fishing of walleye. This ban contributed heavily in the economic downfall of this local business and other fisheries throughout Ohio. Kishman’s fish houses and tugs were a Vermilion scene for over 100 years, but were demolished in 1985 and eventually condos were built in this area. When fishing was strong, Ray was one of the founders of the Festival of the Fish in 1967. This festival will celebrate 52 years in 2018.
During this time, Dawn further worked at Wakefield Lighting in Vermilion for 21 years. The couple raised two foster children, Carol and Barb. When Ray passed away in 1985, Dawn started traveling, something she wanted to do but not Ray who never liked to leave Vermilion. With close friends and groups, she remembers going to Africa, Alaska, Antarctica, Austrialia, New Zealand, Italy, and even Mongolia. Luckily, flying never rattled her and she recalled boarding a Russian plane in China to fly into Mongolia where there were no seat belts for some passengers and the seats were wobbling without being anchored down.
Today, Dawn remains independent living in her own home, but with lots of company and care from close friends and extended family. She is like the rest of us, snowbound, and anxious for spring. She has hundreds of birthday cards to look at and photo boards made for her to cherish all those memories. She watches a lot of television, doesn’t mind the daily reruns. She said she has a computer somewhere, but doesn’t use it. She’s not a fan of the digital age. Once loving fashions and jewelry, she laughs she only shops in her closet now before she goes out. So to Vermilion’s grand lady, happy birthday!