Ernie and Judy Barbeau returned to Cincinnati in 1989 not knowing where they would live. They were not impressed with the realtor’s choices of neighborhoods. Reaching back into their knowledge of Cincinnati, they remembered a realtor’s name, Jody Barkley, and gave her a call. And, as they say, ‘the rest is history’.
They fell in love with their home on Kinoll Ave. and have found the neighbors to be quality people with a passion about the community.
It took a while for them to be active in Kennedy Heights but when they did they were astounded by the people and the events that were taking place. Progressive Dinner was a particular highlight. Through this venue they were thrilled at the possibility of meeting other neighbors and the extent to which these people were committed and caring about the community and the wider world.
Ernie accepted Joshua Swain’s request to be involved with updating the Community Plan. In time, he became the President of KHCC; he recently stepped down as the Chair of KH Development Corporation and now is the resident historian of KH. Through his connection with UC History Professor Charles (Fritz) Casey-Leininger, a class devoted a semester researching the stories of Kennedy Heights and published a booklet last Fall, 2014.
Ernie was awarded the Kennedy Heights Citizen of the Year in 2003, recognizing the impact he has had on the community, giving countless hours to the benefit of the neighborhood. His significant efforts have continued in the decade following the award. Creating the plan for the Cultural Arts Center, negotiating the purchase of the building and developing the Center are a testimony to his leadership on the Development Corporation. He has renewed energy in his new role as neighborhood historian to uncover stories and interest in Kennedy Heights.
Judy has given quality time to the annual Landscape Awards. For many years she chaired that committee recognizing homeowners gracing the community with beauty and encouraging a spirit of well- tended property.
Ernie mentioned the uniqueness of the neighborhood, the nature of diversity, and the mix of people regarding income and education, the high rate of home ownership, the history of the community (the Yononte Inn as an example, its former location a few yards from their home) all exemplifying and highlighting what makes KH a dynamic community. In his leadership roles, he noted that democracy can be messy; frustration is part and parcel with the gains made as people collaborate.
He has seen physical improvement in the neighborhood. There are limited housing alternatives for senior citizens who would like to stay in the neighborhood as they downsize their living space. In fact, there is a now a discussion about housing for seniors. He is glad to note that, once again, there is a principal at Woodford Padeia who welcomes both neighborhood children attending the school and community involvement. He is impressed with the skillset of both KHCC and KHDC boards. When someone comes forward, others join the process. As has been noted before in this series, the phrase “It takes a village” is mentioned, this time “to create a community”.
What would he suggest to someone moving into KH? One needs to be comfortable about getting involved. He hopes that people are willing to work with problematic areas such as there are more houses than what are needed. How adaptable are we to changing demographics? Will we continue to sustain diversity that is intergenerational, multi-ethnic, a melting pot? We need leaders, and people who are willing to be volunteers for the betterment of the neighborhood.
Ernie’s hopes for KH are 1) a grand opening of the Cultural Arts Center, 2) significant change in the business district and 3) the Community Council and Development Corporation working with hotspots such as Northdale Pl., Coleridge Ave. and Kennedy Ave.
Addendum to the presentation of this interview at Kennedy Heights Community Council Meeting on May 19, 2015: The Cultural Arts Center grand opening has a date: August 29, 2015!
Interviewed March 19, 2014
with Christine Schumacher and Holly Beckemeyer