GREENVILLE— Even though he has lived in East Greenwich, R.I., for the past 40 years, Donald “Don” Mong still considers Greenville his home.
In fact, his newly released illustrated book, “Greenville My Hometown in the Great Darke County” is available at Garst Museum.
“The book depicts 84 iconic places, past and present, in Greenville, Ohio, where I was born and raised,” he said. “The images are watercolor sketches. I donated 100 percent of any money raised and the original artwork to the Garst Museum.”
His main reason and inspiration for the book was the loss of his mother, Phyllis (Hufnagle) Mong, who died of COVID in April 2020.
“She loved Greenville and probably was the unofficial ambassador of Greenville,” said Don, who is also the son of the late Ted Mong.
Don left Darke County in 1975 when he joined the U.S. Army.
Why is Greenville so special to him?
“Greenville was a magical place growing up and the people there were amazing,” he said. “I went to North Elementary School, the old junior high school and the senior high school.”
When did his work in watercolors and sketches have its beginnings?
“I learned mechanical drawing from Mr. Beal in Greenville High School,” replied Mong, who has been a commercial diver from 1982-87 and an East Greenwich Police officer from 1987 until his retirement in 2008, following his Army stint. “He was my mentor in mechanical drawing class.”
The artist even greeted people and promoted the sale of his images of Greenville and Darke County at the Great Darke County this past year.
His latest book took him nine months to complete.
Among the sites in Greenville featured in the book are The Swinging Bridge, The Great Darke County Fair, restaurants and other Greenville iconic spots.
He said he got the idea of doing the book from Facebook followers and other work he had completed.
“I have done numerous art works for various military individuals and organizations,” said Mong, who recently underwent a hip replacement. “I have published two police articles, one on Cruiser Placement in a Traffic Stop and the second was using a Drone (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) in reconstructing a motor vehicle accident.”
The 65-year-old artist has lived in Fort Hood, Texas, Fort Knox, Ky., and Darmstadt, Germany.
He said both his parents attended Greenville High School, graduating in 1950, and that he and his twin sister, Debbie Mong Burlington of Rutland, Ohio, graduated in 1975.
“I paint and draw every day,” said Mong, who received an associate’s degree in administration from Justice Roger Williams College, Rhode Island.
He said it’s been overwhelming how everyone has spoken highly of his new book.
Katie Gabbard, marketing director at Garst Museum, said there are two displays of Mong’s works at the museum.
“His ‘Greenville, My Hometown’ series delves into the picturesque and nostalgic areas that dapple the city,” she said.
Gabbard also noted that other pieces of Mong’s work are available for purchase at the Museum Store at the facility. They include such items as postcards, greeting cards, prints and boxes.
Another person who helped Mong with his latest book is Dr. Steve Gruber of Greenville, who retired as a professor at Cedarville University in May 2017 after 17 years there.
“I first became aware of Don Mong and his drawings of different sites in and around Greenville through the facebook page, ‘You’re Probably From Greenville, OH if…….’,” Gruber said.
“Don had posted a couple of his drawings on this site and immediately I knew that I needed to reach out to him to see if we could collaborate in some way to use his drawings to share with the people of our community and possibly do so in a way that could raise some funds for the Garst Museum.”
Gruber said this led to a lengthy telephone conversation during which two two men brain-stormed several ideas that included the production of a poster, notecards, prints, and other items using his art work to be sold in the Garst Museum gift shop.
“From there, we began to discuss the possibility of creating a ‘coffee table’ book containing his drawings with captions describing the individual drawings,” Gruber said. “Don began the process of digitizing his artwork and creating the page layout of the book while I began creating the captions. We used several sources to gather the caption information, including the Darke Research Center, which is housed in the Garst Museum, and the Greenville Public Library. In creating the book, we also wanted to provide pages at the back of the book for people to write down their memories that were generated while reading the book.”
Gruber said it was their desire that the hometown memories be preserved for future generations as the book is handed down to the next generation.
“Preserving our community history is one of the main goals of the Garst Museum so this project became a natural product of our collaboration,” Gruber added. “A strong supporter of the museum, Mr. Dick Brown, provided funding for the printing of the book which allowed us to raise much needed funds for the museum through the sale of the books to the public.”
Gruber and Mong have begun discussions of a possible expanded second edition of that book that would include Don’s drawings of places and buildings from the entire county.
“We were very humbled to see the positive response to ‘Greenville: My Hometown In The Great Darke County’,” Gruber remarked. “We are nearly sold out of the 200 copies of this printing. Those who might be interested in purchasing the book or the other items that Don has produced may do so by stopping by the Garst Museum giftshop or through using our giftshop website: https://www.garstmuseum.org/greenville-my-hometown-collection.