Longtime Shawnee teacher, Clark County history enthusiast passes away

A local retired teacher known for his hobby of historical horsemanship and enthusiasm for historical reenactments has died.

Jay Eben, who passed away on Friday, April 24 at age 77, was a physics teacher at Shawnee High School for 46½ years.

Eben is survived by his wife of 51 years, Kathy. Both were part of a group that founded the Fair at New Boston that takes place each Labor Day weekend at George Rogers Clark Park.

According to Kathy Eben, he will be cremated and no funeral service will be held due to the coronavirus pandemic. She said there may be a celebration of life at a later date.

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“In a way, we’re having a celebration remembering him like this; so many of his students and friends have contacted me,” she said.

Former Clark County Commissioner John Detrick thought of Eben as a younger brother, having gone to school with him starting in seventh grade, graduating from Tecumseh High School in 1960 and studying education and becoming fraternity brothers at Wittenberg University.

Both remained in Clark County and went on to become teachers. Detrick was pleased his son had Eben as a teacher at Shawnee.

“He enjoyed life and had a very soft heart for horses and was sensitive for the environment,” Detrick said.

Kathy Eben said her husband tried to reach 50 years as a teacher, but health limitations prevented the goal. He retired in 2014 and was inducted into the Shawnee High School Hall of Fame in 2016.

“Jay was dedicated to the kids and he was loved by them,” she said.

Eben was especially interested in horse dragoons, researching their history, costuming and tack that led to his authoring a reference book, “Dragoon Sketchbook 1776-1798.” Eben also recreated Revolutionary War uniforms and hats.

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He took his enthusiasm for the era in a new direction when he went before the cameras for several historical films and documentaries, including the 2000 Hollywood production “The Patriot” starring Mel Gibson, playing a member of a dragoon unit.

Gary Foreman directed, wrote and produced several historical documentaries and fondly recalled Eben’s passion for his projects.

“He was an outstanding individual who devoted himself to his craft both as an educator, equestrian and performer,” said Foreman. “Jay couldn’t wait to perform for us. We stayed great friends.”

Foreman recalled Eben playing a courier on a horse for the opening of his 2004 TV movie “First Invasion: The War of 1812,” which was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Art Direction. Eben also portrayed Gen. John Gibbs.

Eben later performed in a Foreman-directed documentary about frontier heroes Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, in which local hero Simon Kenton was also portrayed.

Foreman visited the Fair at New Boston and rode horses during the event with Eben, going away impressed with its authenticity.

“We’re missing these types of people like Jay, who take you back to the authenticity of that time period,” said Foreman.

Eben would go on to portray Crockett, in a sense, for a mural in Texas depicting the race to the Alamo, and modeled for another large wall mural of the Battle of Fallen Timbers at Maumee, Ohio’s Fort Meigs Visitors Center.

Closer to home, Eben is in a movie about the Battle of Peckuwe shown at the Heritage Center of Clark County.

When not teaching or reenacting, the Ebens had a stable for horses at their home, Oak Hill Farm.

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