Best of 2021: Top 8 stories that made us smile this year



Through this year’s ups and downs, the Miami Valley had no shortage of uplifting stories that made our days a little brighter.

Here are 8 stories that made us smile this year:

1.💙Frank the Gargoyle



One of the biggest surprises of 2021 was how much joy a little gargoyle in Englewood brought to readers across the Miami Valley.

The saga started in early December 2020 with Union, Ohio, resident Denise Starr’s gargoyle in front of her home’s front door. Starr, a veterinarian in Englewood, received a note informing her the gargoyle statue — lovingly named Frank — is “not appropriate” and “not in keeping with the Christmas spirit.”

That note turned into a year-round fundraiser for local charities via Frank’s former Facebook page.

Read the full story here.

2.💙Zoo featuring African animals hidden in plain sight in Preble County

Credit: Wild Hearts African Farm

Credit: Wild Hearts African Farm

Wild Hearts African Farm & Petting Zoo sits on 4 acres in Preble County as one of the most unique places to see animals in southwest Ohio.

In May, photos of the animals and their home in Preble County resulted in “aww’s” to last for months.

See the rest of the photos here.

3.💙Dayton couple seeks new life for historic church

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

In November, Carol and Matt Jahn of Dayton told the story of their plans for an old, long-abandoned Second German Baptist Church building, located at 1420 E. 4th St. in the St. Anne’s Hill Historic District.

“We started investing in real estate and that eventually evolved into flipping houses in order to have the funds for the church,” the Jahns said. “Each house we flip goes to finance the church renovation, but an unexpected blessing in disguise has been that we are taking abandoned houses, making them beautiful and filling them with wonderful people from the community.”

Read the Jahn’s full story and learn more about the history of the building here.

4.💙The Amy Schneider historic “Jeopardy!” run



The end of 2021 brought us the joy of watching Dayton native, Amy Schneider, become tied for the most wins for a woman contestant in the game show’s history.

On Dec. 28, Schneider became a 20-day “Jeopardy!” champion. She’s now tied with Julia Collins who won 20 games in 2014.

The Chaminade-Julienne graduate added $23,400 on Tuesday, bringing her 20-day total to $768,600. She is the fourth-highest earning champion in regular-season play, the fifth-highest earning champion for all-time winnings — surpassing David Madden on Tuesday — and is the show’s top female earner.

Read about Amy’s Dec. 28 performance here.

Schneider’s successes have been especially uplifting to follow considering January’s “Jeopardy!” airing of the final episode that legendary television host, Alex Trebek, taped. The “Jeopardy” host lost his battle against pancreatic cancer in November 2020. He was 80 years old.

5.💙Long-gone amusement park embedded in southwest Ohio park

The rusted and crumbled remains of a long-abandoned amusement park can still be found where a fellow nicknamed “Firecracker” built it as a tribute to the friends he fought alongside in World War I.

Traces of Null Hodapp’s post-war venture remain tucked into the woods of Possum Creek MetroPark: stairs once used by swimmers, piers of a forgotten bridge and the disintegrating remnants of street cars that served as campers.

“It almost feels like a time-traveling experience,” said Carrie Scarff, Five Rivers MetroParks’ chief planner.

These photos of those remnants kept readers captivated.

6.💙Boosalis café named “Best Bakery in Ohio”

In February, for the second year in a row, a Centerville bakery was named the “Best Bakery in Ohio” by the national website “Eat This, Not That!

The designation was the fourth accolade in the last three years for Boosalis Baking and Café, located in the Cross Pointe Shopping Center. Boosalis Baking also has been included in a Yelp list of the 30 Best Bakeries in the country, placing 25th, and in the fall of 2018, the Centerville bakery was named “Best Coffee Shop in Ohio” by USA Today.

Read the full story here.

7.💙Local couple attracts YouTube following as ‘Dayton’s fixer-uppers’

In March, readers fell in love with Laura and Brian Quinn who turned their latest project into a video series called “Couple of Quinns.” They’re currently renovating a 1905-built “fixer-upper” in Dayton’s Grafton Hill neighborhood and documenting their journey with a new episode on their YouTube channel every Friday at noon.

At the start of the pandemic, the Quinns bought the Grafton Hill home they now call “The Federal,” and though it’s far from their first undertaking, it was the first time they began documenting their journey.

Read their full story here.

8.💙Beavercreek boy facing major surgery; help him ‘rock his recovery’



At the age of 7, Jack Hoos of Beavercreek had already been through a lot. He has autism and has struggled with chiari malformation and tethered cord for years. A chiari malformation is a condition in which the brain tissue extends into the spinal cord.

In March, his family asked the Dayton area for help as Jack prepared to “rock recovery.” Jack was preparing for an April surgery to have his tethered spinal cord released.

While Jack is in surgery, his family planned to prepare his hospital room with rocks galore. Beth hopes it’s a total surprise.

“I was thinking I would set them up on the window sill, on the desk and on his tray,” Beth said. “And I’m going to have some special ones to kind of pull out throughout (his recovery) so I can be like, ‘Oh look at this cool one I found’ if he’s having a bad day, so he can focus on something else.”

Readers’ responses poured in, and the Hoos family even needed to set up a PO box to have the rocks mailed.

Read Jack’s whole story here.

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