Fern Amber (Harris) Storer – 2006 Inductee

Award winning editor, intellectual, gracious hostess, devoted wife and friend, proud native Kansan and transplanted Kentuckian, perfectionist.  Fern Storer was all that and more.  As food editor for the Cincinnati Post, Fern used those traits to give people an idea of how to do things right.

Fern Amber Harris was born March 25, 1906 in a log house in Kill Creek Township, Osborne County, Kansas.  She was the daughter of Edward and Lydia Harris.  Fern earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics from Kansas State University in 1928.  She then taught school at Westmoreland, Kansas, before marrying Sheldon B. Storer (whom she had met in college) in Kill Creek Township on August 2, 1931.

Sheldon and Fern lived in St. Louis for six years, then moved to Covington, Kentucky, where she began a six year stint as director of dietary services at William Booth Memorial Hospital.  Later Sheldon worked for Westinghouse Electric as an electrical engineer while Fern served as home economics consultant for Family Services of Cincinnati, and in 1946 she began writing a food column for the Cincinnati Post.  During her 25 years as food editor from 1951 to 1976, Fern expanded the food section from a single column to several pages.

Fern was a registered dietitian and became nationally influential with her cooking ideas.  From 1976 to 1985 Fern published the nationally-syndicated column Microminders, in which she pioneered many of the microwave cooking ideas and recipes that later became the standards in the field.

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“[It is] important, I think, is to emphasize the fact that Fern Storer was a registered dietitian. This alone set her apart from most of her food-editor contemporaries. The [Cincinnati] Post asked her to write a weekly food article in those beginning years, before there was a food section, because Post editors assumed she knew her stuff, which Fern certainly did. Much food coverage in magazines and newspapers was written then and still is by chefs or journalism graduates, not food majors or dietitians with 4- or 5-year academic degrees. Fern was a genius at sprinkling nutrition information, which can be technical and boring, into her food writing and recipe instructions. It was a painless way to take the medicine of how to eat what’s good for us. I remember one story Fern did on carrots that was nutritionally informative and made cooked carrots sound better than candy. It turned out to be an award-winning article . . . not easy to do with such humble subject matter. Fern knew how. Her Post readers loved her . . . long after she retired.”

“In the interests of accuracy, a passion for any historian, let the record show that Fern was an occasional judge of the Pillsbury Bake-Off, among many other local and national cooking contests. There never was a “chief judge” of the Bake-Off. It was an honor passed around among the 100 or so food editors of major metropolitan dailies in those years.” – Joyce Rosencrans.

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 In 1963 Fern was the recipient of Kansas State University’s Distinguished Service Award.  She was also the recipient of the Award of Merit from the American Meat Institute.

Sheldon Storer passed away in 1988.  In 1989 Fern published her own cookbook, Recipes Remembered, which is still in print.  She herself passed away on May 28, 2002, in Covington, Kentucky at the age of 96 years.  Both are interred in the Osborne City Cemetery in Osborne, Kansas.

James C. Votruba, President of Northern Kentucky University, called Fern “An incredible person. She was a friend of the university and a friend of mine.  She said she lived so long because she wanted to see how life would turn out.”  Upon her death the Sheldon B. and Fern H. Storer Honors Scholarship at Northern Kentucky University was established.

Also upon Fern’s death her beloved 14.5-acre home of 61 years, with its wide acreage of flower, herb, and vegetable gardens and large numbers of deciduous and hardwood trees, was donated to Northern Kentucky University to later be used to endow a professorship at the university.  In 2003 the land was sold to the city of Fort Wright, Kentucky for $790,000.  In 2004 it was announced that the land would be made into a state historical park to showcase the Civil War-era battery preserved on the property by the Storers.

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 Students touch piece of history

Hooper Battery is being unearthed, restored

By William Croyle
Cincinnati Enquirer staff writer
Friday, October 1, 2004

FORT WRIGHT – As 6,000 Confederate troops marched from Lexington toward Cincinnati on September 10, 1862, they stopped in Fort Mitchell.

Staring down at them from hilltops that stretched eight miles from Ludlow to Fort Thomas were 72,000 Union troops and militia. The Confederates camped for two nights before withdrawing.

Cincinnati was defended without a shot being fired.

“It was one of the most famous Civil War battles that never happened,” Dave Brown told fifth-graders from St. Agnes School on Wednesday at the Battery Hooper site. Brown, dressed in Civil War garb, is a member of the Mid-States Living History Association, a group that re-enacts Civil War history. They were taking part in Battery Hooper Day, celebrating the preservation of one of only six Civil War fortifications left in Northern Kentucky.

Students from St. Agnes Elementary, Fort Wright, and Bishop Brossart High School learned about life in the 1860s and sifted dirt for relics.

“We’re getting to interact,” said Erin Robinson, a junior from Bishop Brossart who found three bullets. “You actually get to touch a piece of history.”

“I like learning about history when you can see it like this,” said 10-year-old Michaela Beechem from St. Agnes.

The battery is a U-shaped wall made of soil, about 30 feet long and 6 feet high. Behind it is an artillery wall where two cannons were stationed. The battery and wall have been preserved underground since the late Sheldon and Fern Storer built their house and planted grass on the land in the early 1940s.  Fern Storer died in 2002 and bequeathed the house and 14.5 acres to the Northern Kentucky University Foundation.  The school sold it last year to Fort Wright for $790,000.  The money is being used for scholarships. The land and home will be a park and museum.

The battery site is being unearthed and restored by Fort Wright, NKU and the Behringer-Crawford Museum with a $32,000 grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation Center for Civic Engagement.

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 Fern and Sheldon Storer’s former home and grounds are now the James A. Ramage Civil War Museum.  The museum officially opened on June 30, 2005, with a dedication held on August 20, 2005.

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New Ramage Civil War Museum

A high-efficiency test kitchen, tricked out with a space-age refrigerator, stainless steel cabinetry, and wall tiles, is one of the focal points of a new museum dedicated to preserving and interpreting northern Kentucky’s role in the Civil War from 1862.

At the James A. Ramage Civil War Museum in Fort Wright, in the midst of displays of Confederate money, tintypes, a children’s card game called Spy, a medical field bag, and artillery, is the heart of the home–and a time capsule of futuristic 1950s-era kitchens–where previous owner Fern Storer tested recipes. From 1951 to 1976, Storer was the food editor at The Cincinnati Post. The author of Recipes Remembered: A Collection of Modernized Nostalgia, published by Highland House Books in 1989, Storer was also known as a pioneer of microwave cookery.  Her husband, an electrical engineer, made sure that she had a top-flight kitchen.

Like her cookbook, Storer’s kitchen is a link between now and then. It sits not far from Battery Hooper, a 6-foot-high earthen wall raised smack on Storer’s front lawn nearly 80 years before she and her husband built their home here. The fortified cannon battery, named for industrialist William Hooper, who financed its 1861 construction, is located on a hilltop overlooking the Licking River valley. One of 28 such batteries built by Union forces in an 8-mile arc in northern Kentucky to defend against Confederate attacks, Battery Hooper is one of just six remaining today.

“It is good to remember Fern Storer,” says James Ramage, in whose honor the museum was named. Ramage, a Regents professor of history at Northern Kentucky University and author of numerous articles and several books on the Civil War, including Gray Ghost: The Life of Col. John Singleton Mosby (University Press of Kentucky, 1999), was instrumental in transforming the property into a museum.

“The Storers covered it over with fill dirt in 1941 so they’d have a nice lawn,” says Ramage. “And in doing so, they saved the battery for us. It’s never been pitted or dug. It’s unusual to have a Civil War site that no one’s been in searching with metal detectors.”

Since recovery operations began at the site two years ago, supervised digs involving the public have taken place and unearthed the remains of several Civil War-era artifacts.

The stately house-turned-museum sits in a park-like hush with a sweeping valley vista from the battery. Inside, an equally impressive scene awaits with framed portraits and posters lining the walls and glass cases. General Lew Wallace, who would claim greater fame almost 20 years later as the author of Ben-Hur, stares sternly from the wall. The story of the Black Brigade, forced to help defend the area and build the fortifications, is recounted next to the national flag honoring their service. There are Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) medals and a diary, all of which narrate a pivotal moment in history.

The Harris family on a day drive. Mother Lydia, Fern, Father Edward, and Grandmother Hanna (Harris) Pruett.
Fern Harris with her doll Bertha.

The Sheldon & Fern Storer home in winter.
Part of the Storer house grounds.
Fern Storer in her yard.
Fern Storer in her office.
The former Storer home is now the James A. Ramage Civil War Museum.
The Ramage Civil War Museum during the Hooper Days celebration of 2006.

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