Port Clinton’s 88 Circle book club celebrates 136 years

Jun 18, 2024 | Featured, Around Ottawa County | 0 comments

Ginny Parks is 88 Circle’s longest-standing member. She has been attending club meetings for over 50 years. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)


In 1888, a group of women gathered in Port Clinton to talk about the books they had been reading. The club, which called themselves 88 Circle, stimulated the intellect and inspired social connections. Now, 136 years later, the club is still going strong.

On June 11, members of 88 Circle met for lunch at Ciao Bello restaurant in Port Clinton to celebrate the club’s 2023-2024 season. They had been meeting monthly since fall to discuss books about World War II.

“This year’s theme was World War II, the Greatest Generation,” said longtime member Bonnie Seegard.

88 Circle is distinctive for reasons beyond its longevity. For one, not all of its members read the book they are going to discuss. One member is assigned to read the book and then talk about it at the monthly meeting. Those who have read it can chime into the discussion, and those who haven’t can learn enough to decide if they want to.

Secondly, each meeting starts with discussion questions related to the theme.

Judith Tertuliani was the guest speaker of 88 Circle club’s season wrap-up party at Ciao Bello on June 11. She shared tales of growing up in Italy during World War II. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

“Everyone gets a chance to speak up, and we get to know each other better,” said member Lois Evans.

Seegard said those personal discussions are the best part of the meeting.

“That’s my favorite part. We learn so much about each other,” Seegard said. “We enjoy each other immensely.”

Each summer, three members of 88 Circle are chosen to pick the theme and books for the next season, which will begin in the fall. Evans announced that the 2024-2025 theme is “Bee Your Best.” The group will read a series of self-help books.

During the wrap-up party at Ciao Bella, guest speaker Judith Tertuliani of Toledo, who was just five years old when World War II came to her small village in Italy, talked about her early life. Tertuliani was born in the small Italian village of Cavasso Nuovo in 1935. The story of her life gave the group a tangible experience that made the books they read come alive.

“I can remember it so vividly. It was unimaginable,” she said. “The Germans would come through there, and they would take you to Dachau (concentration camp) or shoot you. That’s how I grew up.”

Her family grew their own food, made lye soap, and sewed clothes from scraps.

88 Circle’s 2024-2025 theme is Bee Your Best and will focus on self-help books. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

“When I outgrew a dress, my mother would take the best part of the dress and put it into the next one,” Tertuliani said.

Living with limited resources was of little concern compared to the horrors Tertuliani saw her neighbors endure.

“The thing that was so bad was seeing the young people sent away,” she said. “I had a neighbor who was a POW. When he returned, he could no longer hold his head up. People should get down on their knees and thank the Lord for what we have here.”

Among the 88 Circle members who listened to Tertuliani was Ginny Parks, who is the group’s longest-standing member.

“I’m not sure how long I’ve been a member, but it’s been more than 50 years,” Parks said. “I really enjoy the group. It inspires me to read things I would not otherwise read. It keeps me engaged.”

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July 2024

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