Bible finds its way home

Society returns book given by Masons to Liberty grandson

LIBERTY — Township resident Gary Offerdahl said he was surprised when he was informed a few weeks ago the Howland Historical Society had his grandfather’s 1947 Free Mason Bible.

Offerdahl, who grew up in Howland and whose family operated the Howland Springs water business for 37 years, said Mary Jane Vennitti, historical society president, called his wife Karen Conklin to let her know they had the Bible of Edward Offerdahl, whose name was on the cover and inside.

“He was an active Mason and was given the Mason Bible,” he said.

Vennitti said a woman obtained the book when the Howland Springs water business held a sale when it was sold in March 2014.

Offerdahl said the book somehow ended up in a box of knickknacks and other items at the company’s warehouse.

“Apparently no one knew it was in a box or the value. Until two weeks ago, none of us really knew about it or that it existed,” he said.

Vennitti said when she saw the name on the Bible, she recognized it because she is friends with Conklin and Offerdahl through attending Mahoning Valley Scrappers games. She knew Offerdahl as the name of the family who operated Howland Springs, and she contacted Conklin.

“The historical society had a garage sale, and a woman approached me with items including the Bible to donate. I told her I wanted to approach the family to see if they wanted the Bible. I know if it was my family, I would like to have it,” Vennitti said.

She sent Conklin a photo of the Bible and was impressed by how legible the signatures are inside.

Vennitti said she has learned the Bible is one of the gifts given when someone becomes a Mason.

The Mason Bible, which is in good condition with gold-colored pages, has an Old and New Testament, and was dated April 8, 1947, with numerous handwritten signatures inside.

“It was presented to my grandfather in 1947. The different Mason brethren and friends signed it when they presented it to him. There is nothing ripped out. There is a section in Deuteronomy that is marked, but I do not know the significance,” Offerdahl said.

He said when his wife got off the phone with Vennitti, she told him: “You will never guess what happened.”

Arrangements were made to get the Bible and to give Vennitti a $100 donation for the historical society.

Offerdahl said his grandfather came from Oslo, Norway, at age 23 in 1923 and arrived by boat in Brooklyn, N.Y., where his uncle and father were born. He said his grandfather’s name was Einar Edward, which he flipped to Edward Einar Offerdahl.

“He was recruited to work in a steel mill in Dormont, Pa. He had an electrical engineering degree in Norway. He then got recruited by Copperweld Steel in Warren to work there and moved to the area,” Offerdahl said.

Edward Offerdahl lived in an apartment on Mahoning Avenue near where the Akron Children’s Hospital site is. He died in 1956.

Offerdahl said his grandmother, Anna Larson, was from Stockholm, Sweden, and came over on the same boat as his grandfather before they knew each other. The two met at a Scandinavian mixer in Brooklyn.

Offerdahl told his brother in Cape Coral, Fla., and his sister in Chardon about the Bible.

He said he wishes he would have listened more to his grandparents’ stories when he was younger.

“When I was younger, I did not have the interest in my family’s history like I do now. I wish I had gotten more information. Our grandmother had lived with us before she died in 1970,” Offerdahl said.

He said he plans to give the Bible to his son, Sean.


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