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Clevelanders head to county archives to create unique, personal gift for neighbor's 90th birthday

Posted at 5:20 PM, Sep 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-27 19:32:39-04

CLEVELAND — We’ve all heard the clichés: a picture is worth a thousand words. You can’t put a price on a memory. Historians at the Cuyahoga County Archives department agree.

The new facility on Perkins Ave. has been open just a little over a year and houses county documents dating back to the 1800s.

Archivists there met with a group of longtime Clevelanders Friday who hope to give a close friend the gift of an ultimate blast from the past.

“You can come in and find out you’ve spent the last three or four hours here and you’re still looking for information,” Judy Cetina said, “And one document leads to another and another.”

Cetina spends her days sifting through sketches and renderings and studying documents that tell the stories of Cuyahoga County.

She said the county’s rich history sometimes feels forgotten in today’s digital age.

Cetina helped Mary Gilbride hit the books for a longtime friend.

“We wanted to do something for her 90th birthday,” Gilbride said.

Gilbride’s neighbor Jan recently moved out of the Fairview Park home she poured her heart and soul into since 1962.

“We thought we would give her a little history of the house,” Gilbride said. “We thought she might enjoy that.”

Gilbride said her longtime neighbor and her husband built a chimney, fireplace and a two-car garage.

“They did an awful lot to that house,” Gilbride said.

Before renovations, the home even included a horse stall.

“Can you imagine?” Gilbride said tearfully.

On Jan’s 90th birthday, she will open a shadow box showcasing the house she lived in more than half her life. It’s a gift many would argue is better than anything you could buy in stores.

“We’ve had people who will see a photograph and a flood of memories will come back,” Cetina said. “They’ll remember the house. They’ll remember being there.”

Gilbride said if the walls in her longtime neighbor’s house could talk, they would tell the story of a dedicated mother of three, a skilled gardener and a lifelong Clevelander.

“A lot of them have been lost, so we were lucky enough to find the picture,” Gilbride said. “So we’re very grateful.”

The group of neighbors will surprise Jan with her gift on her birthday on October 8.

If you’d like to research your family lineage or your home’s history free of charge, visit the Cuyahoga County Archives building located at 3951 Perkins Ave.