Generosity Comes Full Circle at Stifel Fine Arts Center in Wheeling

Participating in the dedication of a restored flagpole and two flags at Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center are, front row, from left, Rebecca Lief, Leah Lief, state Sen. Ryan Weld, Joan McClelland and Debi Smith; back row, from left, Rabbi Joshua Lief, Sarel Venter and Danielle McCracken. Photo by Linda Comins

WHEELING — Acts of patriotism and community generosity came full circle last week with the dedication of a restored flagpole and two new flags at Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center.

Rabbi Joshua Lief and his wife, Rebecca, of Wheeling, made a donation for the restoration to honor their 8-year-old daughter, Leah, who noticed the flagpole was rusty and missing a flag.

In turn, Sally Wells Ezell, of Wheeling, donated a U.S. flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol in memory of her mother, Susan Bachmann Ezell, and state Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, gave a West Virginia flag for the display on Stifel Center’s lawn.

Oglebay Institute President Danielle McCracken said the inspiring story’s roots began about a year ago when longtime institute supporter Roz Lando, of Wheeling, gave an OI family membership to the Liefs to welcome them back to the city when the rabbi was chosen to lead Temple Shalom. The family “immediately became very involved” in OI programs and activities, McCracken said.

One day this summer, when the rabbi and Leah arrived early for her camp session, they walked around the Stifel Center grounds, looking at the koi pond and admiring the outdoor sculptures.

Leah questioned why the beautiful facility didn’t have a flag and she noticed “the flagpole was rusty and not in great shape,” he said.

The rabbi — who enjoyed visiting Stifel Center in his childhood –later mentioned the situation to McCracken, who said the flagpole was on a list of repair and maintenance projects awaiting funding. The Liefs then decided to make a contribution for this effort.

“It was something that we could give back to an institution that has meant so much to our family and to the community,” Joshua Lief said.

The rabbi added, “We wanted to be of help. We are proud to be supporters of Oglebay Institute. My parents are proud to be supporters of Oglebay Institute.”

For the next step in the project, McCracken contacted Debi Smith, state regent for the Daughters of the American Revolution, to ask the DAR’s Wheeling chapter for a new U.S. flag. Ezell, a DAR member, offered the flag that had been presented at her mother’s funeral in 2011. McCracken also asked Weld, who is her cousin, for a state flag.

In addition to being patriotic symbols, the flags and the restored pole serve as “a reminder of the impact one small deed can have on the community,” McCracken said. “It’s a fine example of a ripple effect.”

Smith and her mother, Joan McClelland, regent of the Wheeling DAR chapter, organized the dedication for the DAR’s observance of Constitution Week.

During the brief ceremony, Ezell said, “My mother is smiling down on us today. She would have loved to be here today.”

McCracken said Stifel Center employee Jeff Brothers installed a new concrete base for the flagpole and Sarel Venter, owner of Adventures in Elegance in Wheeling, restored the pole.

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