Lifelong Hamilton residents, whose $3.5 million donation will create a park as part of the next phase of RiversEdge Park and Ampitheater, are being honored as Hamilton’s Citizens of the Year for 2015.
Joe and Sarah Marcum provided the funds to create Marcum Park, which will be situated on the site of the former Mercy Hospital in downtown Hamilton.
Marcum Park will include more than six acres of space between N. Second Street, Dayton Street, Front Street and Buckeye Street, including the existing amphitheater and overlook.
The donation marked the largest-ever private donation for a park in Hamilton, according to the Hamilton Community Foundation
The donation shows the Marcums’ commitment to the city, said Kenny Craig, president and CEO of the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, which bestows the award each year.
“This significant gift of $3.5 million for Marcum Park will have an enormous positive impact on the quality of life in the community,” he said.
The Chamber has named its Citizen of the Year annually since 1987.
“Sometimes it has been people that have given a tremendous amount of volunteer hours outside of their every day jobs,” Craig said. “Sometimes it has been somebody who has had a significant achievement outside of their every day jobs. And then once in a while, it’s somebody who has made a very significant financial contribution to a quality of life initiative in the community.”
“They could have made or presented the gift anywhere, but they decided to make the gift to the city of Hamilton to help continue to help the city and the revitalization efforts that are going on,” he said.
A lifelong Hamilton resident, Joe Marcum began working at Ohio Casualty in 1947 as an underwriting trainee and worked his way up to president and CEO of the insurance company, retiring in 1993.
Joe Marcum said the park will be a “great and safe place for families to have picnics” and will help revitalize downtown.
“We are very optimistic about the future of Hamilton,” he said.
A committee that includes representatives from the Marcum family, Hamilton Community Foundation and the Hamilton Parks Conservancy are working to develop the site, which is slated to open this year.
When the Marcums revealed their donation in February 2015, Joe Marcum said that even the types of trees for the park were being carefully chosen.
“I want it to be a park that is both utilitarian and a thing of beauty,” he said in a press release in 2015.
The RiversEdge Amphitheater was built in 2013 and also designed by MKSK. Its $1.1 million construction was funded by local sponsors, including the Mercy Health Foundation, MillerCoors, Hamilton Community Foundation, as well as the Ohio Department of Transportation, Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission, and Ohio Department of Natural Resources. It has hosted a summer concert series for the past four years.
Perhaps the most special attribute of the park is its location.
“It’s accessible to everyone. Having the land in the center of downtown is a big plus,” Joe Marcum said in 2015.
The land also has meaning to the Marcum family. Three of Joe and Sarah Marcum’s five children were born at the former Mercy Hospital.
“It feels very nice to have Sarah and I, along with our family, recognized. We were very much surprised and appreciative of receiving this award,” Joe Marcum said. “We are both 92 years old now and don’t get around so easily, but this came as a surprise; a very nice one.”
Hamilton resident Dave Belew, who spent 18 years as the president of the Beckett Paper Company, and many more years working with the Marcums on charitable causes, was overjoyed to hear that his longtime friends were being honored.
“My wife and I have been friends with them for over 60 years. Both of them have been very active in the community and Joe has served on many boards,” Belew said.
Belew said Joe Marcum was a founding member of the Boys and Girls Club of Hamilton and also a founding member of the Senior Citizens organization, now known as Partners in Prime. He also served on the boards of the Hamilton Community Foundation, Lane Libraries, Fort Hamilton Hospital, United Way, Fitton Center and TVHamilton, he said.
City Manager Joshua Smith said the Marcum family is an example of the best Hamilton has to offer.
“The Marcum family have been community leaders for decades. Their philanthropic nature has been instrumental in moving many key projects forward,” he said. “It is impossible to thank the Marcums enough for their generous giving and for helping Hamilton become a purposeful destination to live, work and play.”
Joe and Sarah Marcum’s positive impact will forever benefit the Hamilton community, said John Guidugli, president/CEO of Hamilton Community Foundation.
“As 2016 begins, we can all look forward to Marcum Park and the great impact it will have on downtown. Hamilton is fortunate to benefit from the generosity of the Marcum family,” he said.
Jack Moser, former Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge, said the entire Marcum family is deserving of this honor.
“He’s (Joe) been one of the biggest assets we have ever experienced here in the city of Hamilton,” Moser said. “His wife, Sarah and his son Steve, and the entire family are following in his footsteps and they are deserving to share this honor.”
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