Ottawa County Museum honors local Purple Heart veterans

Jan 25, 2023 | Around Ottawa County | 0 comments

Area Heritage Foundation President James Rusincovitch, left, Ottawa County Museum Curator Peggy Debien and Museum Board Member David Barth stand in the museum with the Purple Heart sign that will be installed outside the museum. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)


The Ottawa County Museum has been nationally designated at a Purple Heart Museum. David Barth is looking for information on county Purple Heart recipients to add to a local Purple Heart database. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

Dave Barth is on a mission to honor as many Ottawa County Purple Heart recipients as he can. His original goal was to help bring the Purple Heart Trail designation to the Ottawa County Museum. He accomplished that on Wednesday, Jan. 18, and now he is working to create a database of all Ottawa County Purple Heart recipients.

James Rusincovitch, president of the Area Heritage Foundation, signed a proclamation designating Jan. 18 as Purple Heart Day at the museum. The ceremony was attended by John Flores, Commander of Fort Industry Chapter 1981, Military Order of the Purple Heart in Toledo.

The Purple Heart Trail is a nationwide initiative to honor Purple Heart recipients and place visual reminders of their sacrifices in public places. Any public entity can apply to receive Purple Heart Trail designation, including cities, counties, universities and roads. Purple Heart Trail entities must commit to requirements which include the creation of a local Purple Heart recipient database. Barth’s database will be publicly accessible in a physical book which will be part of a Purple Heart exhibit at the museum.

“We’re building a developing database, but we don’t know how many Purple Heart recipients we have in the county,” Barth said. “It’s hard to find out because the information is private. I have some information on KIAs, but I have to dig deeper and talk to families.”

Barth is asking families of Purple Heart recipients to contact him. Ottawa County Purple Heart Registry forms can be obtained from Barth by calling 419-357-2057 or emailing

Rusincovitch said the project is important for several reasons, including the opportunity to recognize Ottawa County’s rich military history.

“The service people here deserve this,” he said. “Dave has done a tremendous job on this.”

Ottawa County Museum Curator Peggy Debien, who is a Navy veteran, said the project is an honor to all veterans “because any veteran could have become a Purple Heart veteran.”

“As a veteran myself, it’s important to me,” she said. “We don’t know how many Purple Heart recipients we have, but we would like to recognize them.”

On May 20, a countywide Purple Heart Trail proclamation will be made, and National Purple Heart Day will be recognized in Ottawa County on Aug. 7. Until then, and long afterward, Barth will continue his search to find county Purple Heart recipients.

“Not having served in the military, and having a dad and grandfather who were veterans, this is a way for me to give back,” he said.

John Flores, Commander of Fort Industry Chapter 1981, Military Order of the Purple Heart, in Toledo, left, watches at Area Heritage Foundation as President James Rusincovitch signs a proclamation designating the Ottawa County Museum as a Purple Heart Museum. Also witnessing the signing are Ottawa County Museum Curator Peggy Debien and Museum Board Member David Barth. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

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