On December 22nd, the Great Miami River crested at just over 17 feet in Troy. According to the National Weather Service, this was the highest water level the Great Miami River has had since the National Weather Service kept records in 1958. Who knows, it may have been the highest water level for the river since the Great Flood of 1913.
Admittedly, the flood waters brought on a flood of memories for me. On the 22nd, I was able to drive to just behind the Hobart Cabinet Company on Water Street in Troy and I saw with my own eyes the flood gauge at 17 feet. I immediately thought what my father would have thought about this.
Dad grew up just a few houses down on Water Street, in two houses wedged between where Hobart Cabinet and Spinnaker Coating currently sits. He shared the two homes with his parents and his twelve brothers and sisters. Growing up, the back yard he had was literally the Great Miami River.
The fact that Dad grew up behind the Great Miami River explains why he always seemed to enjoy being around water. As a young man, he was a caddy at Miami Shores Golf Course, which was just across the river from where he lived. Before I was born, he served in the United States Navy in the Vietnam War. Growing up, I remember a lot of the down time he had was spent near the water.
Lazy Summer evenings were often spent at his brother-in-law’s fishing pond near Covington or down at the river doing some fishing. Every spring, he took his annual pilgrimage to rural Alabama for his week-long fishing trip with his good friends. Of course, each trip sounded like a disaster; the boats would break down, the weather was too stormy or the fish were not biting. Even with all the mishaps, Dad would come back in a much better mood and he was always glad to see his family again.
Perhaps, most importantly I remember my father taking me to my first city council meeting when I was in fifth grade. This was my first look at local government and I remember being completely amazed about the whole meeting. Towards the end of the meeting, my father stood in front of council and talked about the poor state of the river he loved so dear. Clearly what he lacked in eloquence, he more than made up for in passion. He remembered as a kid what a great place the Great Miami River was and wanted it returned to its glory. I honestly can’t remember if the city ever dredged the river, as my father had asked, but I remember that meeting helped open a door for my future profession.
Another one of the great Lutz family traditions I remember as a kid was driving around townafter a heavy rain. Either for his own enjoyment, or for the enjoyment of me and younger brother, he would go out or drive through the large puddles that would be around Troy; West Main Street and South Market Street were always sights to see when the streets were flooded.
My father passed away last November. He had a myriad of health concerns and after a long hospital stay he left us behind. It was a sad time, but in many ways, those last few weeks I was able to spend with him in the hospital were as good as it gets. We watched football and old movies; he spent time talking about the past, I talked about the future. It was difficult knowing that he wasn’t going to be part of it, but I got the feeling that he knew his days were coming to an end and he was at peace with his fate.
So, when I went back to the Great Miami River and saw 17 feet of water, I had no choice to think about him and how he would have reacted to all the water in the river that meant so much to him. I am sure I would have told him that the river has never been so high; I am sure he would have told me that he remembers as a kid how the river was much higher. We would have had a fun little argument and finished by saying, “I love you.”
William (Bill) Lutz is the Development Program Manager for the city of Piqua and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org