Thelma E. Jefferson, 91, residing in Sandusky, passed away early Friday morning, May 3, 2013, in Firelands Regional Medical Center following a brief illness.
She was born Feb. 16, 1922, in Vickery, daughter of the late Bernard B. and Dollie (Kloepfer) Lee. Thelma was a member St. Paul Lutheran Church.
Thelma and her husband Leonard were partners in many business ventures in the Sandusky area, including Jefferson File Exchange, Jefferson Camera & Hobby Center, the early development of African Safari Wildlife Park, Norwalk Theatre, German Village Tavern and saved the State Theatre from destruction and refurbished it with help of their friends and neighbors. After Leonard’s death, Thelma managed the State, booked films and live shows, and handled all payroll single-handedly for a year before achieving their dream of a real community theater for Sandusky by selling to the nonprofit group that was the ancestor organization of the one presently operating the State Theatre. It was both a “gift” and a “challenge” for the cultural enrichment of our community.
The major enterprise that drove her and the family was the creation of 10 rides at Kiddieland at Cedar Point which included a small roller coaster, the first in a decade, and the only one in the 1950s and 1960s until the Blue Streak. Thelma was the “Queen of Kiddieland”, the one lady who had her own merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, live steam locomotive, coaster and many other attractions. She also owned and managed four souvenir stands sending a lot of children happily home with nice affordable remembrances of Cedar Point from 1952-70.
See was an avid roller skater from her teenage years, skating in rinks all along the northcoast. Her love of molding plaster figurines, teaching painting classes and painting them herself were her great joy. One winter was spent in her kitchen with a blow torch burning off years of old paint from 40 merry-go-round horses and then turning around and repainting them all. And this was all by the time she was only 65.
The last 25 years she spent winters in Florida and summers touring the U.S. with life-long friends in an Airstream Trailer Club. What a Ride! Her greatest joy was spent visiting her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Thelma is survived by her son, the Rev. Ronald Lee (Linda) Jefferson of Canel Fulton, Ohio; three grandchildren, Ronn Winsor (Tamara) Jefferson, of Aurora, Ill., Shawn Saliba (Russell) Jackson, of Annapolis, Md., and Melinda Frazier (Jeremy) O’Dette, of Columbus; six great-grandchildren, Nathaniel David Jefferson; Joseph Jefferson Jackson; Zachariah Winsor Jackson; Elliot Frazier O’Dette; Evelyn Hadley O’Dette and Emerson William O’Dette; and her friend and companion, Wilbur Ramsey, of Huron.
Thelma was preceded in death by her husband, Leonard F. Jefferson, in 1987; her parents; and one brother, Robert H. Lee.
Friends may call 4-7 p.m. Monday, May 6, at Groff Funeral Home and Crematory, 1607 E. Perkins Ave., Sandusky. where funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 7. The Rev. Roger Skelley-Watts, of Huron United Methodist Church, will officiate. Burial will be in Sandhill Cemetery.
If desired, memorial contributions in Thelma’s name may be directed to Stein Hospice Services, 1200 Sycamore Line, Sandusky, OH 44870.
Condolences may be shared at grofffuneralhomes.com.