BIG RUN — As Joe Buterbaugh, Big Run mayor of 37 years, stands in front of an East Main Street brick building he calls the “centerpiece of town.”
Buterbaugh, who is the longest-serving mayor in Jefferson County, having held the office since 2009, says that, besides holding more than 70 years of history, the building is a place where many community members gather — the town council, basketball players, wedding parties and those honoring veterans.
The building has many uses. Its stage can be used for shows or wedding purposes, and it was used during Big Run’s 150th anniversary celebration last year, Buterbaugh said. The structure has a main-floor auditorium, gymnasium, kitchen, separate meeting room, a lobby and broiler room, as well as restrooms and shower rooms.
Three years ago, a traveling basketball team from Punxsutawney painted the ceilings and walls on the inside of the building in exchange for being allowed to practice there, Buterbaugh said. There are pieces of history painted on the walls, including the names of soldiers and of veterans.
“In almost every war, we’ve lost someone from Big Run,” Buterbaugh said.
Whether it involves renting the building for a wedding, or a place to gather for the Veteran’s Day ceremony, Buterbaugh says it is the center of all the town’s activities.
In front of the building are rows of bricks with the names of Big Run veterans who have served in war. The bricks were started after World War II, Buterbaugh said. There is also a row of tiles for prominent townspeople who have played important roles in the community.
The Big Run War Memorial Fund Committee is always looking for updates and ways to improve the building, Buterbaugh said. Its kitchen was recently renovated, as well as its bathrooms.
Two projects for which the committee is still in need of funds are a new roof, and someday having air conditioning in the building, which would require lowering the ceilings.
The building used to be a venue for Veterans of Foreign Wars programs, before Big Run’s VFW was combined with the Mahoning Valley Post 2076 in Punxsutawney.
“The War Memorial is special to so many people,” he said.
The Big Run War Memorial Fund Committee hosts several events open to the community in order to raise funds for improvements and updates, said Buterbaugh. Community bingo events are held once a month at the East Main Street building.
A cornhole tournament also will be held there on Jan. 19.
Big Run’s Spring Craft Show will be held March 16 at 9 a.m. Big Run’s “Spring Peepers Banquet” is held March 17 and is in its 26th year, bringing anywhere from 130-180 people, Buterbaugh said.