How "Leemah" became "Lymah"
Updated: Feb 14, 2020
Spending some quality time with my Canadian in-laws in Ohio has become an annual summer event to which my wife and I look forward. Our strategy is to meet somewhere in the great state of Ohio due to the fact that it is the half-way point between our beloved Tennessee and their part of Ontario, Canada. The drive is reduced to nearly an even split, depending on where we meet. We also get to discover more about the Buckeye state. This year we agreed to meet in Lima, Ohio. In no time at all, the debate began as to how to correctly pronounce the name of the city. We stumbled upon peace when an elder from the local church where we attended church in Lima became our impromptu history teacher. According to this regional sage, an outbreak of malaria devastated the area over a hundred years ago. News quickly spread about the epidemic all around the world. When a group of Peruvians heard about it they jumped into action. They collected strychnine from the surrounding area, packaged it and shipped it to Ohio with instructions. The devastated Ohioans took the remedy to heart and mouth. In time, the spread of illness slowed and inevitably became history. In time the big moment came for incorporation of this particular little township in Allen County. In gratitude, they named their city, Lima from where their salvation came in Peru. As things go, the next generation of Allen County residents began to mispronounce the original Peruvian moniker. After a couple of generations of progeny came and passed, there is no longer a trace of the original name. Ask most Ohioans today and you will hear the "americanized" version of the name.
The missing ingredient in the new batch of locals is a direct relationship to the folks who experienced the devastating disease in the first place. Gratitude dissipates over time. This is why there are memorials embedded in the calendar. Memorial Day, Veterans' Day, Independence Day and those others honoring Presidents, Martin Luther King Jr. and other laborers make sure that we give a nod, take a knee or lay wreaths to refresh our memories. Gratitude for sacrifice, loss and heroism deserves the proper context that a bit of history generates. It usually involves revisiting suffering, pain or even death. If we fail to look behind the name of the holiday on the calendar that special day will inevitably become less pronounced.