Dominic Clementz had to think a moment.
“Forty-seven … around 47,” he said when asked how many students were in his class when he graduated from Perry High School in 1991.
He knew everyone back then. Most had been together since kindergarten. To this day, he speaks highly of the camaraderie of that class and praises the teachers and school staff for the attention they provided to their students.
In so many ways, Clementz is still a small-town boy, but one who set his sights high and is now living a big-time life.
In July, at age 47, Clementz — or should we say Colonel Clementz — became the commander of the 412th Maintenance Group at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, the second largest of the Air Force’s 59 bases in the United States and the center of aerospace testing. Only Eglin Air Force base in the Florida panhandle is bigger.
Clementz has 1,800 maintenance personnel under his command. The Air Force calls them “the most diverse maintenance unit in the Air Force,” with their primary mission being to evaluate and test aircraft not only for the Air Force, but also for NASA.
It’s a position he feels honored to hold, and one he says his upbringing in Northwest Ohio played a big role.
“Perry High School and Allen County in general were a great place for me as a young person,” Clementz said. “There was a unity there. To be where I’m at now is humbling. At one point in time, Allen County seemed so huge to me.”
The world has become smaller for Clementz since graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1996. He’s served in nine states — Colorado, Delaware, Alabama, North Carolina, Utah, Arizona, Virginia, Hawaii and California — and two foreign countries: Japan and Germany.
In the process, he and his wife, the former Melissa Woodruff of Van Wert, have been raising six children.
“The Air Force has given us a tremendous opportunity as a family to travel and experience things that are hard to replicate in any other lifestyle,” Clementz said.
He recommends it for any person coming out of high school today.
“Whether you’re thinking about a four-year career or 30 years, I think you’ll find it a rewarding and challenging experience. It can open doors you may have never fully considered.”
Clementz’ success is not surprising to those who know him.
Herb Lauer, who taught art for more than 30 years at Perry, said you could see leadership qualities not only in Dominic, but also his two brothers, at a young age. All served in the military. Chad Clementz, like Dominic, graduated from the Air Force Academy and is now retired. Scott served five years in the Coast Guard after graduating from the Coast Guard Academy.
“They were always grateful for what they had and also willing to jump in and help others. In that way they are a lot like their parents, Jim and Karen,” Lauer said. “They’re humble and truly one of Allen County’s remarkable families.”
ROSES AND THORNS: The smell of chicken wings floats through the rose garden.
Rose: Despite being canceled or greatly reduced from the virus, the St. Gerard Church Festival in Lima and the Auglaize County Fair found a way to get their food treats to the public. The fair came up with Food Vendor Friday and the church festival offered a drive-through service for its famous wings, which ended up selling out in hours.
Rose: To Bob Bechtel, of Lima, who had his idea featured Thursday in the nationally syndicated comic strip “Pluggers.”
Rose: To Justin Stuber, formerly of Dunkirk. His plan to visit Antarctica later this year would see him completing a mission of visiting all seven continents. (Can you name the seven continents? Asia, Antarctica, Africa, Australia, Europe, North America, South America.)
Rose: To Marilyn and Paul Diller, of Lima, who celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on Aug. 12. The average wage when they were married in 1950 was $3,210 and you could buy a brand new Stromburg black and white television for $249.
Rose: To Marie and Donald Strauer, who celebrated 65 years of marriage on Aug. 13.
Thorn: Two teenagers were charged with criminal mischief after they were caught spray-painting political signs in Wapakoneta.
Thorn: It will be a fall without Ohio State football as the Big Ten Conference called off the season due to the virus.
Thorn: As of Wednesday, only 68.5% of Allen County residents have taken part of the census count, leaving the county at risk of losing millions of dollars in various federal funds.
PARTING SHOT: Worrying works! More than 90 percent of the things we worry about never happen.
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.