In 2009 the couple were honored as “Distinguished Citizens of North Fairfield.”
The Earls enjoy their historically-related pastimes, always appreciating a new story or newly discovered artifact. In their travels together seeing America's National Parks has drawn them to visit all such parks in Arizona. They have added Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite and Death Valley, with others to follow.
Ruth Niver-Earl wanted to be a med tech, but she said “after my first quarter at Ohio State University, I realized it was not to be.”
“Education was a logical choice,” added Niver-Earl, whose mother, Olive Walker-Niver, had long been a school teacher.
Meanwhile to make a living, Niver-Earl worked as a dental assistant near the Columbus Pubic School Office.
“One patient in the dental office had gotten a grant from Lyndon B. Johnson's Elementary and Secondary Education Act to be in low-income schools in their education programs. Columbus schools had taken existing teachers to be in the program in the inner city. This was 1966. Three young women, myself included, were chosen to go into the high schools to teach reading,” she said.
Niver-Earl taught at Columbus East, an all black school, for six years until she was married. When she applied for a job in Maryland, the assistant superintendent asked her about teaching at an inner-city school.
“I said I had already done that in Columbus, Ohio. I was the only non-black person — teacher or student — at Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School. I was always given much respect,” said Niver-Earl, who taught English and journalism and oversaw the school paper.
“When we were ‘putting to bed’ the issues, we would be there sometimes till midnight. My husband would bring pizza for all as we finished up the paper and then would take the students home.”
Niver-Earl quit teaching after two years when her first child was born.
“I had been making $100 a week. I finished school one year for a teacher on maternity leave. It was no longer a question of whether I was married or not. This was a Title III school one block from Johns Hopkins Teaching Hospital. It was the magnet school era and ours was to be a magnet school for kids interested in health careers.
“At our school I started to develop programs for teaching extra science, math and terminology students would need. I was not intimidated by the level of need or by circumstances of black inner-city schools. Then school closed due to riots when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. People asked me if I was going to stay home, but I went back to work. I was not worried because these were my friends in this area,” Niver-Earl said.
After her divorce, she taught dental hygiene in South Carolina and studied for a similar degree at the University of Cincinnati.
“I worked for the Ohio Department of Health (in) the division of dental hygiene as a dental health educator,” she said. “On one visit to my mother in the hospital, I ran into Jerry Earl. We discovered we had many North Fairfield memories in common. (We) were both single. We married in 1991.”
Deep roots in Huron County
Although born in Norwalk, Jerry Earl was raised in North Fairfield.
His father was the first North Fairfield fire chief. He also served as a sheriff’s deputy for 17 years.
“He was in partnership in a farm with Arthur Burras, a surveyor. Dad helped out. He ran the transit, the instrument man who set up and turned the lines when surveying; I used to watch,” said Earl, who recently retired his surveyor's certification after a career of 39 years.
When Earl began working, one could take the test after having on-the-job experience of eight years.
“Now a batchelor’s degree is required and an apprenticeship before you can sit for the surveyor’s test,” Earl said. “There are many many chances for wrong transcriptions of numbers and directions on early deeds. Old deeds are so difficult to read due to clerks' crabbed handwriting.”
Earl’s career included six years in the Ohio Air National Guard and a brief time at Bowling Green State University. He returned to live on the farm near North Fairfield that had been in his family since his great-grandparents’ era.
“Jerry loved being outdoors so being a surveyor meant he could combine this with service to others,” his wife said. “He likes to tell people that after we were married that's the only time he got to be the boss,” she added with a laugh.
His grandmother, Glena Earl, helped start the North Fairfield museum and library. After the house used by the Ladies Lending Library Association of North Fairfield (formed in 1870) was sold in 1943 to Charlie Harvey, he donated it to the village as a museum and historical association. The North Fairfield Historical Association (NFHA) was dedicated in 1944.
“By 1980 the weight of the books was pushing them through the floor, so they got moved. By that time the books had been there for 100 years,” Niver-Earl said. “Jerry's parents were active in the NFHA and we joined them and took over later.”
Calling herself “the current volunteer curator,” Niver-Earl said she enjoys the organizing and has come to appreciate North Fairfield as “a village before its time.”