Ann Antenen liked to tell people she was the first, and only, female mayor of Hamilton — so far — her daughter, Susan Antenen, said.
She passed away Thursday in hospice. She was 96.
“She had a good life,” her daughter said. “She was involved in many things, and many people loved her.”
At first when she arrived in the city in the early 1950s after marrying Hamilton native Jay F. Antenen Sr., it was difficult for an out-of-towner to settle in, Susan Antenen said. But eventually she set down deep roots in the community.
Among other accomplishments, she and Jay Antenen founded CHAPS (Citizens for Historic and Preservation Services). They bought older houses, including some on Ross Avenue and Third Street, restored them and rented them.
She helped save several historic buildings, including the historic former Anthony Wayne Hotel, which was supposed to be torn down. CHAPS found a developer and the building now offers affordable housing to people. Another major preservation victory was the Elisha Morgan Mansion in Fairfield.
“That is a lady who loved Hamilton, Ohio,” said the current mayor, Pat Moeller. “She cherished history, she cherished historic buildings. She and her husband were quite a team when it comes to historic preservation, and because of she and her husband, we’ve been able to preserve a lot of historic buildings.”
“Ann was such an accomplished person,” said Moeller, who first knew her through her son, Jay F. Antenen Jr., and called her “a class lady.”
Moeller also was impressed that “she was the first woman mayor at a time when there probably weren’t that many women mayors,” he said. “We have lost an iconic person.”
Moeller credited her with helping ensure the city’s current High-Main bridge had the iconic arches of its predecessor. She also supported preservation efforts all throughout the county and state as a president of the Ohio Preservation Alliance. She also helped get Hamilton’s German Village area designated as a historic area.
More than anything, “she loved being out with people,” Susan Antenen said. “She was going to Rotary until the last few weeks, and the garden club, and just to get out and see people — and help people, when she was younger.”
She also loved nature and gardening, “and she loved Hamilton,” after moving to the area in the early 1950s. She originally was from Virginia and earned a degree in architecture from the University of Cincinnati, and also majored in art. She met her husband, who died in 2009 after 57 years of marriage, in Oxford, while she was an architect and he was a builder.
Antenen was sworn in as Hamilton’s vice mayor in January, 1978, and a month later took the city’s highest elected post when Mayor Frank Witt died during a City Council meeting. She was an avid gardener and a member of the Hamilton Garden Club. Susan Antenen said she also helped bring Planned Parenthood to Hamilton and taught Sunday school at First Presbyterian Church in the 1960s. She also was involved with the Butler County Historical Society.
Antenen also was a recognized local artist who specialized in oil paintings depicting Hamilton and the local countryside, but also worked with watercolors and mosaics. YWCA Hamilton in 2001 named her Woman of the Year.
Aside from her son and daughter, she also leaves four grandsons and two great-granddaughters, Hazel and Elise.
A memorial gathering is being planned for sometime in May. Memorial contributions may be made to YWCA Hamilton, CHAPS or the Butler County Historical Society.
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