Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Recollections of Charlotte Gallant

By Robin Mayes, Farm Educator 


Photo of Charlotte Gallant and brother Ellis Gallant in front of Big Troy in front of old farm (now GWP).

The Delaware County community recently lost an altruistic philanthropist with the passing of Charlotte Gallant. On January 18, she died at 104-years-of-age. Although she is gone, her legacy lives on. Charlotte was instrumental in the creation of two county parks, Gallant Woods Park and Gallant Farm. 

Many of the Preservation Parks family were privileged to become acquainted with this special lady over the last several years. Rita Au, who served as Preservation Parks Executive Director for 25 years, fondly recalled her friendship with Charlotte, as well as her generous contribution to the community.  

“It was October 1989.  I had been the director of Preservation Parks (or Delaware County Metropolitan Park District as it was called then) since April. I held a meeting at the Delaware County Joint Vocational School to introduce the community to the Park District and explain our goal of establishing natural-area parks throughout the county, as none existed at the time. Obviously, this goal would require the acquisition of land (and funding). After the conclusion of my presentation, a few people stopped to talk with me.  One was a spritely older woman. After introducing herself as Charlotte Gallant, her next words to me were, ‘I have a farm which I would like to donate to the Park District. Would you be interested?’” 

“Thus began my long association with Charlotte. We visited her farm, now Gallant Woods Park, and she gave me a tour of the woods, with her identifying every wildflower we saw. She became an avid volunteer – helping with our Adopt-A-Highway cleanups; staffing the booth at the Delaware County Fair, going door-to-door handing out levy information, making phone calls during levies, waiting at the Courthouse for the levy results to be tallied, assisting with our Cuisine Along the Ravine Valentine dinner fundraiser, attending all our programs, and much more. Basically, if we had any type of community activity, Charlotte was there.   

And, although she was non-assuming and quiet-spoken, her presence was felt.  Her support of the Park District and my efforts never wavered.”  

“The donation which she first mentioned in 1989 became a reality in 1993. Charlotte was proud of the role she played in providing green space for the community into the future. I am grateful for her constant support for over 25 years and am pleased that I was able to honor her with the development of parks which carry her name – Gallant Woods and Gallant Farm. She has left a huge legacy to the Delaware County community and will be greatly missed,” Rita concluded.  

Charlotte Gallant – July 2017 summer concert, celebration of her 100th birthday.

As Outreach and Volunteer Specialist, Saundra McBrearty got to know Charlotte through the hours of service she dedicated to the parks. Saundra remembered the event when Charlotte turned 100. “Charlotte rock and rolled on her 100th birthday,” she said. “She danced in celebration enjoying the reality of her dreams, her hard work, her generosity, and her legacy. In their party van, Willow Brook brought Charlotte and a dozen of her neighbor friends to Preservation Parks’ summer concert at, you guessed it, Gallant Woods Park. The date was July 27, 2017, Charlotte’s 100th birthday. Lords of Literature, the classic rock n roll, all- teacher cover band took the stage. The perfect band for a retired librarian like Charlotte. In front of a grateful and cheering audience of 400 people, Preservation Parks staff presented a beautiful birthday cake iced with a vista of Gallant Farm. Wheelchair bound, Charlotte danced with rainbows in her eyes, clapping, tapping, and rolling her shoulders to the beat. Later, back at Willow Brook, Charlotte said she wanted to keep dancing.”  

“You are an inspiration to us all Charlotte. We are a better community because of you,” Saundra said.  

Like Charlotte, Preservation Parks Volunteer Mary Zaye has also dedicated much of her time to the Park District. Their mutual love of the Park District in general, and of Gallant Farm in particular, fostered a friendship between the two.  

Reminiscing about the beginnings of Gallant Farm and how she came to know Charlotte, Mary said, “My husband and I were members of the Golden Marathon Walking Group. Every time we walked at Gallant Woods we would observe the progress in constructing the Gallant farmhouse. As I remember, the walking group was given a sneak preview just before the official opening in October of 2012. I was struck by the similarity of the house to that of my grandparents’ farmhouse. I determined right then to spend my volunteer time at Gallant Farm.” 

When Mary’s husband died, she moved to Willow Brook Village where Charlotte was also living. “It seemed inevitable that we would meet. And so, we did.” Mary recalled. Within a few weeks, a long-time Delaware resident and fellow Village resident, Lois Smith, approached Mary and relayed Charlotte’s request to meet her, referring to Mary as, “this volunteer at the farm”. Lois arranged for the three of them to have dinner together at the Village restaurant. “Thus began a wonderful give and take between the two of us. We shared information and visits around life at the farm,” Mary said. 

Charlotte as a child

Those visits resulted in even more than friendship. They allowed Mary to begin compiling information about the history of the Gallant family and farming in the 1930’s that could benefit future visitors to Gallant Farm. “I wanted to be able to answer visitor’s questions or give them background information while working as a docent at the farm. Several times I was honored to bring Charlotte out to the farm for tea with Robin Mayes, Farm Educator. We three would sit at the kitchen table talking about Charlotte’s days visiting her grandparents and the things she would do when she visited the farm. I was busy taking copious notes. And Charlotte, in her visits, would inspect the interior of the house. Between visits I would stop by Charlotte’s apartment to bring her news about the activities at the farm or ask her questions to clarify my knowledge about her life or family. She graciously allowed me to borrow pictures and articles about them. With her help, I was able to compile a reference notebook for myself so that I could remember the history of this area and share it with others.” 

“I cherish the times I was able to bring a ‘Farm Report’ to her after she became more fragile and confined. Occasionally I would bring home eggs from the farm, hard boil them, shell them, and take them to her so she could have fresh eggs from the farm. Her continued curiosity about activities at the farm was always active and eager. I know she felt much pride that her passing remark to Rita Au, the Director of the Parks at that time, about having a ‘farm so children would know where their food came from’ was really understood and acted upon,” Mary concluded. 

As Farm Educator I enjoyed my visits with Charlotte as well. I think often of when she first walked through the newly opened farmhouse, quiet with reflection. She was revisiting many of her family’s possessions that had once furnished her childhood home. Charlotte sat down at the kitchen table, lovingly running her hand across the smooth, oak top. Tracing the edge of the table and then reaching underneath, a smile radiated across her face. “Yep, here is where Ellis mended the top when it split,” she said quietly, referring to her older brother.  

Although her family lived in the city of Delaware, Charlotte and her older brother Ellis spent many of their days on the farms owned by their grandfather, Charles Gallant. Ellis would later spend many of his adult years, farming the land. 

At the time of the donation of the wooded acres, Charlotte expressed the desire for other youngsters to enjoy the same experience of wandering the woods that had meant so much to her.  

The project that proved to be especially close to her heart, though, was the creation of Gallant Farm. The opening of the living history site was the culmination of a dream Charlotte had envisioned for years. She had expressed that desire to Rita many years before. Together they made that dream a reality. 

When 19 acres across from Gallant Woods became available, a Clean Ohio Grant was received for its purchase and the vision began to come into focus. Local historians and agriculture experts were consulted, and the plans were cemented. 

A typical early 20th Century farmhouse was constructed, and an historic barn was reconstructed on the site. Charlotte had the forethought to keep many of the old furnishings and fixtures from her family home on Liberty Street Delaware. Many of these artifacts were moved into their new home at Gallant Farm and donations of additional family heirlooms began to pour in. Items from more than 150 local families are also housed at the farm. It was remarkable to watch the diverse collection grow. What a tribute to a generous community!  

Today, in addition to the house and barn, the farm has an equipment shed and a modern “granary” which houses classroom space and offices. Livestock has also been added to the farm and includes chickens, sheep, and cattle currently. 

As the farmland of Delaware County disappears and people become further removed from their agricultural heritage, living history sites like Gallant Farm become more and more vital. Although the land and the items that Charlotte donated for the residents of Delaware County are invaluable, it is the memories these special places will create for each generation that is her lasting legacy. 

Share This Post:
Share This Post