Display marks 60th anniversary of crash that killed 8 local Girl Scouts

Patrons of the Beavercreek Community Library will notice a new artistic display that has special significance to the library and the Beavercreek community.

This year marks the 60th anniversaries of the library at 3618 Dayton Xenia Road and of the train crash that killed eight Girl Scouts and two scout leaders.

This past week the library completed the garden-themed art project, a mosaic that adorns a large window in the children’s area. Artist Leesa Haapapuro designed the project and incorporated photos of the eight Girl Scouts who were killed. Library patrons also contributed with instructions to “create something that would look good in a garden,” said Head Librarian Nancy Madden.

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“Every piece of the art project is transparent so light can shine through to illuminate beauty and offer hope,” Madden said. “It memorializes the girls who died after working on their reading badges, and reminds us that out of horrible darkness, communities can work together to heal and help one another.”

The tragic crash happened near Beavercreek Community Park on Factory Road, where a memorial stands commemorating the victims of the March 18, 1959, collision with the train.

The Girl Scouts were returning home after visiting the library in Xenia, where they were working to earn their reading merit badges. Their vehicle was struck by the train when it crossed over railroad tracks that have since been converted to a bike trail as part of the Rails to Trails initiative.

The library has a copy of “Out of Darkness Light,” an unpublished book of photos of the victims and news reports clipped from the Dayton Daily News and other publications.

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The book’s creator, Tom Weitzel, is a member of the Beavercreek High School class of 1965, the same year the girls would have graduated.

Weitzel said the girls were sixth graders at the time, and he remembers the crash occurred on a Wednesday afternoon.

“Everyone went to class on Thursday. There were many empty desks, including teachers, as many of the girls’ mothers were teachers,” Weitzel said.

Weitzel said part of his motivation to create the book was to highlight the many positive developments that occurred because of the tragedy.

“It occurred to me as we approached the anniversary, there was so much more to remember than just the accident itself. I asked myself, ‘Can we ever get beyond the tragedy?’ ” Weitzel said. “The book tells the story that came out of the tragedy, how it motivated people and groups within the community to coalesce around certain efforts.”

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Among those community efforts were installing flashing lights at the five railroad crossings that were in Beavercreek Twp. at that time. Weitzel said funds started to be collected to build a memorial library, which led to the construction of the Beavercreek High School library.

While there were already plans underway to build a branch of the Greene County library system in Beavercreek, Weitzel said the crash spurred the opening of the Beavercreek branch in rented space in July 1959.

“That accident has been part of our DNA every time we have a gathering of the class,” Weitzel said. “It’s something that’s always been remembered.”

The victims of the crash were Sharon White, Paulnetta Randall, Ann North, Patricia Lipinski, Cynthia Moorman, Ann Wilvert, Linda Ward, Connie LaPrise, and the Scout leaders, Jeanette Randall and Lucille White.

A memorial scholarship fund was established in 2009. Administered by the Greene County Foundation, a current or former Girl Scout graduating BHS is offered the scholarship every year, officials said.

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