POINT PLEASANT — An era came to a close with the passing of local businessman and former state Sen. Charles Lanham on Tuesday.
There’s little arguing Point Pleasant has changed from the time Lanham arrived to the time he left, with several of those changes taking place as a result of his trademark understated persistence.
“I think one of the most important things was, of all the things he worked on, he never had an agenda; it was always for the better of the community,” Mario Liberatore, longtime business associate and friend, said.
Liberatore started working with Lanham in 1974 at then-Citizens National Bank, and they had worked together ever since, ending up at Ohio Valley Bank together where Lanham later retired. Still, Lanham never completely retired in the true sense of the word and OVB kept an office available for him to use in Point Pleasant, knowing his commitment to economic development and other community projects eclipsed any retirement on paper.
Though known in the local banking community, Lanham also made a name for himself working for charitable organizations like the Gordon C. and Mildred R. Jackson Foundation, which awards grants to worthy programs impacting the area. He also served on the Pleasant Valley Hospital Board, worked with local chamber of commerce and economic development groups and was a Rotarian. He supported the development of projects like Marshall University’s Mid-Ohio Valley Center and the completion of U.S. 35, the latter of which is named the Fruth-Lanham Highway after himself and the late Jack Fruth.
In fact, one of Lanham’s last public appearances was in October at the groundbreaking for the completion of the final 14.6-miles of U.S. 35. Lanham was the center of comments made from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the latter of which spoke about that understated persistence and how he never let an opportunity pass him by to ask her about U.S. 35 and getting it done.
At the groundbreaking, Lanham spoke to the Point Pleasant Register, and when asked if he ever gave up on the project getting completed, said he was certainly discouraged at times, especially after Fruth died. During those times, Lanham said he often thought, “I guarantee you Jack Fruth would have had a solution.”
Lynne Fruth, also at the dedication, that day spoke about the work Lanham and her father had done to bring the road to fruition.
“My dad and Mr. Lanham saw from the beginning how important it was to Mason County,” Lynne said about U.S. 35 and its completion. “I can’t believe that between Charles and my dad, they spent collectively 80 years trying to get this road built. That’s a lot of perseverance. They fought that fight, we got part of the road but the last 10 years, I give Charles a lot of the credit for just keeping it out there and not giving it up.”
To the end, Lanham stayed informed about what was going on in the community he had impacted, though he didn’t take credit for that impact because to him, it was still unfolding with possibilities.
“He was such a strong leader, and a great leader for the community and the county,” Liberatore said. “We became great friends and he was a strong influence in my life, I learned so much from him. He’s going to be missed, sorely missed.”
Lanham’s full obituary appears inside this edition.
Reach Beth Sergent at [email protected] or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.