Lois Wilson Murray Zizert
Lois Rachel Wilson was born February 3, 1908. Her parents were Katherine Pine Wilson, 1876-1940, and Arthur Jacob Wilson, 1875-1944, both from Centerville. Her sister Marjorie was six years older and died of tuberculosis at the age of 35 years. Lois was proud of her heritage. In an essay that she wrote in 1980, she said that the Wilson family came to America from Wales and fought in the Revolutionary War. In 1778, the family journeyed westward to Greene County, Ohio and bought 320 acres for two cents an acre. Her great great-grandfather Daniel Wilson, born 1759 in New Jersey, moved to Washington Township in 1811.
Lois went to school in Dayton, graduating from Steele High School. She preferred the outdoors to school and found it hard to concentrate, but she worked hard. She took pride in her schoolwork and wanted to do as well as her many cousins in Centerville and Dayton. She took art classes and writing classes, attended Oberlin, and in 1934 graduated from the University of Cincinnati. In later years, she studied Kindergarten Education at University of Dayton.
Lois taught elementary school for ten years in Dayton, then moved to Daytona Beach, Florida and taught ten years. She moved back to Centerville in the early 1950s and taught sixth grade at Magsig for one year. Preferring the younger grades, she found a job in the Beavercreek schools and taught there for fourteen years.
She was a world traveler. By 1974, she had toured the British Isles, all of Europe, the Netherlands, Turkey, South America, the South Sea Islands, Australia and New Zealand. In the next ten years, she added China, the Middle East, and Russia. She also returned to many of the countries that she had already visited.
Lois was creative. She wrote poetry, short stories, and a few books. One was a ghost story about the Nutt Cottage, and three others were about family, friends, and living in the country. She was a talented seamstress, making clothes and quilts. She loved gardening, trees and birds. She was a member of the Audubon Society, identifying close to 200 birds by their songs, plumage, flight patterns and nesting quarters. And she made over 600 scrapbooks, mostly to give away, in the tradition of her mother and grandmother.
In 1966, Lois was concerned about the survival of her stone house, that she had owned since 1959, amidst the razing of many buildings in Centerville. She approached the city council and said, "What can I do?" Her idea was to leave her house to the city since she had no heirs. The City Development Committee had been talking about organizing an historical society and this seemed to be an opportunity to do just that. So Lois' concern about preserving her historic home was the birth of the Centerville Historical Society with Lois filling the position of the first president.
In a "This is Your Life" party for Lois in 1977, her friends said she had an "adventurous and inquisitive spirit to see and know all that she could about this planet that she lived on." For us, her foresight and generosity is much appreciated.
Memories of Lois
By Celia Elliott, Native
The Curator, February 2006
My memories of my cousin, Lois Wilson Murray Zizert, are among the most pleasant of my growing-up days during the Great Depression. When Lois came for a visit with our family on a Saturday afternoon in her 1932 Chevy coupe, I was delighted, as she shared her talents.
Times were hard—it was mend, do without or make do, as the throw-away culture had not yet arrived. Women often re-designed or made-over dresses, because there was no money for new clothing. They showed their creativity and sewing prowess in their wardrobes.
Lois sat down at my mother’s Singer sewing machine and re-styled a velvet dress, which I had outgrown. Like magic I had a new Sunday School outfit with a lace collar. Then when she finished sewing, Lois would play our upright piano and entertain us with a few popular songs of the day—all by ear.
She had attained a teaching degree from the University of Cincinnati and taught a class of first graders at Jane Addams elementary school in west Dayton. The children were poorly clothed and were sometimes sent to school without shoes in winter, but Lois cashed her paycheck and provided footwear for her underprivileged students.
Then and always, Lois was generous and thoughtful, on the side of the underdog.
In another era, in the 1950’s, Lois decided I should accompany her to New York City by train. She loved the theater, so we went right away after our arrival to Rockefeller Center to see the Rockettes and a movie Show Boat. On Broadway we saw Carol Channing in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam. She also arranged for us to see some early TV shows, one of which starred Garry Moore. My first introduction to New York City was a wonderful a la Auntie Mame experience.
Then she re-located to Daytona Beach, Florida to care for her aging mother, Catherine Wilson and taught in elementary schools there. But after her mother passed away, Lois returned to Ohio to teach in Centerville and Beavercreek school systems.
A descendant of pioneer families in the area, she was happy to return to her roots when she purchased the Aaron Nutt Cottage, 78 N. Main Street. “I always longed to own one of Centerville’s early stone houses,” she told family and friends.
But as time passed, Lois worried about the future of the stone house, hoping it would be preserved for future generations.
Then on a May evening in 1966, Mayor Paul Hoy and several councilmen, including Richard Miller and Harold Berry, called a meeting at City Hall to discuss forming a Centerville Historical Society. City officials were stunned, after Lois had listened to the possibility of such an organization and made this statement: “If we can form a society, I will donate my house to such an organization.”
Her offer proved the catalyst for founding the Society, helping in its organization and serving as first president.
Late in life she married Floyd Zizert, a Clayton farmer/businessman and moved to that area, but still maintained the cottage here. After his death, Lois spent her remaining years as a resident of St. Leonard’s Retirement Center.
The Society’s acquisition was long in coming, following her death, after she had bequeathed the Aaron Nutt cottage to the organization. Also, her estate underwrote the cost of heating and air-conditioning in the house’s renovation.
Her contribution to the community will long be remembered as the Society now looks forward to celebrating the 40th anniversary of its founding in 2006. Today we can boast of a flourishing organization that promotes and preserves the heritage of the area, thanks to Lois Zizert and other visionaries.
On her 98th birthday, February 4, Lois may be looking down on us, proud that we are utilizing her gift as a research center now and for future generations.
Her wish that the Aaron Nutt Cottage be preserved has come true, aided by many dedicated volunteer laborers and generous financial contributors.