By Patrick Cooley

Herald Staff Writer



Several families gathered together at Buhl Farm park in Hermitage for reunions, with two celebrating milestones.

The Zahniser family marked their 134th reunion Saturday, while across the park, the 75th consecutive Smith-Freeman reunion was going on.

“Our numbers have dwindled a little,” said Jan Dallap, 69, of Hermitage, at the Zahniser reunion. “We’ve had around 350 before, (this year) we’ll have about 90 by the time we get everybody together.”

Outside of the shelter, where the participants were eating, there were cornhole boards, and other outside games waiting to be played.

“One of the reasons we came here,” Mrs. Dallap said, “is because there are so many things to do at the park.”

The Zahniser reunion included a family tree, and book and a compact disc with the family history.

“We haven’t quite gotten around to seeing who’s the youngest, who’s the oldest, and who came the farthest,” said Sally Kaiser, 62, also of Hermitage.

One of the oldest was 95-year-old Stuart Zahniser, who lives in Florida.

“For many, many years I would bring my father, because he couldn’t drive as well as he used to, and I just kept coming after that,” he said.

Zahniser claimed theirs is the longest-running family reunion in Mercer County.

“In the past we haven’t made active use (of the park’s facilities), but the change this year is that we seem to have more children,” he said. “Somehow the children seem to have been disappearing from our reunion, but we seem to have more this year.”

The Smith-Freeman reunion had roughly 40 participants, and also included a scrapbook of the family history, including pictures and newspaper clippings about previous reunions, and a family tree that went back seven generations.

“My mom, who’s 85, was 10 years old when she was at the first reunion,” said Ken Jelly, reunion president.

Just like the Zahniser reunion, people attended the Smith-Freeman reunion from all over the country.

“We have folks who flew in from Atlanta, Buffalo and Florida,” said Vicki Maloney of Strongsville, Ohio.

Shirley and Bob Smith said they drove 1,255 miles from Florida.

“We haven’t been for a number of years,” Mrs. Smith said. “But my parents live in Transfer, so we figured it was time to come.”

The Smiths said they drove their RV to Sharon, and only made one stop, in Bowling Green, Ky., to visit friends and family.

Emily Schubert of Pittsburgh says she sees someone different every time she comes to the reunion.

“Sometimes I don’t recognize people, but there always seem to be people who recognize me,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever missed a reunion.”

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