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Fran DeWine wears Janet Voinovich-designed Ohio first lady pin with pride

(January 28, 2019) — From inauguration night into the morning of Jan. 15, the Governor’s Residence in Bexley was filled with laughter, music and family.

Children dressed in pajamas ran through Grandma and Grandpa’s house, accompanied by the sounds of a grand piano and the smell of breakfast.

“It was a magical morning,” recalled Ohio’s new first lady, Fran DeWine.

Once the house settled, DeWine slipped away to her bedroom, where she found an envelope resting on a bedside table. Inside, she discovered a note from former first lady Karen Kasich — “I think you deserve it” — and a gold pin.

The pin has passed through the hands of five first ladies, beginning with Janet Voinovich, who designed it.

About an inch wide, the pin is embossed with a gold state seal, with the seal ringed by an inner row of white stones and an outer row of blue stones.

DeWine said she finds particular significance in the pin’s genesis: She considers the designer, former first lady Janet Voinovich, a role model and confidante. (DeWine’s husband, Gov. Mike DeWine, served as lieutenant governor during George V. Voinovich’s administration.)

“It reminds me of those who’ve gone before me and what they’ve done and the great roles they played,” Fran DeWine said recently by phone while baking a buttermilk brownie cake in her Cedarville home, in Greene County.

“It’s just really fun to wear and really fun to think of everyone wearing it.”

DeWine has worn the pin to many public appearances and plans to wear it to others, too. Her first two weeks as Ohio’s leading lady, she said, have been “crazy.” Days after the inaugural festivities, the DeWines welcomed a new grandchild, their 24th. Since then, she has been juggling dual duties.

“I’m trying to be the helpful mother as well as first lady,” she said.

DeWine’s years of public service, she said, have helped ease the transition into her new role — and she hasn’t been alone on the journey.

Some former first ladies have offered their wisdom — including Hope Taft, who reached out about preserving the Heritage Garden at the Governor’s Residence, and Kasich, who gave her a tour of the grounds shortly after the election.

When her years of service as first lady end, she said, she will uphold the tradition of passing on the pin.

“I consider it a ‘first lady’s pin.’”