Avon Lake Vocalist's Photo Preserved
Childhood photo of Rena D. (Titus) Thoma is most recent addition to Cleveland Memory Project
She was known throughout Ohio’s Lorain and Cuyahoga counties, and beyond, for her exceptional vocal talent, frequently performing at local club meetings, church services, and social gatherings. One Cleveland music journal, Musical Courier, described her in 1918, at age 23, as one “who possesses a beautiful dramatic soprano.” She once traveled to Italy to study with Ernestine Schumann-Heink, an internationally renowned opera singer. She was also a descendant of one of the first families to settle in Avon Lake, and she grew up “living beside the old dirt road known as Lake Road. [She and a friend] loved to plop their bare feet along the road raising all the dust possible . . . “, according to a documented memory from one of her neighbors years later.
She was Rena D. Titus, born January 5, 1895, in Avon (now Avon Lake) to Daniel and Adella (Nesbit) Titus. Her great-grandfather, Anson Titus, and his family settled in Avon in 1835, having moved from New York, where he was a schoolteacher. He established the first school in the area, which he built on his farm, and also served as a justice of the peace.
A photo of Rena, taken when she was a young girl, was recently discovered among the Avon Lake Historical Society files at Avon Lake Public Library and has now been added to The Avon Lake Collection of The Cleveland Memory Project, a searchable online local history collection that includes almost 800 photos, as well as digitized copies of the weekly newspaper The Press and Avon Lake High School’s yearbook, newspaper, and literary annual.
Although her career frequently took her away from Avon Lake, Rena maintained close ties with her birthplace. She served on the school board, helped found a women’s club and served as its first president, was active in several area churches, and helped to raise money for local causes. She died December 3, 1972, in Avon, at age 77, the widow of Carl Joseph Thoma and the mother of one child, Betty Jane.
If you have stories, photos, and items you are willing to share related to Avon Lake history, the Library is interested in hearing from you. Please stop in during regular library hours, call 440.933.8127.