I was born in July of 1935, the 4th of 5 boys in a house in Speer. This was one of those houses that when the wind blew the curtains would stand straight out. In the winter there would be snow on the foot of the bed. There was no heat upstairs, so you would get up in the morning and run down the stairs to a large coal burning stove. If you wanted a drink of water you would have to break the ice on the top of the water bucket in the kitchen.
We lived in the Speer house until February of my 8th grade year. My parents and 4 brothers moved to Toulon. Mom and Dad thought I should finish 8th grade in Speer so I lived with my Aunt and Uncle to finish the year.
Stepping back to my 7th grade year, school had just began that morning when we saw fire between the ceiling and upstairs floor. This was after the consolidation and we were in the Speer building that was 2 stories, 5th and 6th were downstairs and 7th and 8th up. We boys carried water upstairs to pour on the floor of which did nothing. But would you believe it was music day and I played a clarinet. I hated that thing, but the first trip up with water I brought the darn thing down and the second trip I brought my books. I don’t know what I was thinking because I don’t know which one I disliked the most.
We had just had an ice storm, the roads were solid ice and all telephone lines were down, so my mother drove toward Wyoming to call the fire department. I think she saw a house with the lines still up and called from there. The ice was so bad on the roads that it took some time for the fireman to get there and the school was all but gone, but we did save the chimney.
The rest of that year we spent in a retired school about three miles north of the Speer school. My 8th grade was in the old township building at Valley Center, across the road from where the new building was being built. That old building sat on blocks with open space underneath where a skunk lived. The day someone yelled “there he goes” and we ran out of that door like a shot to get him. Carolyn Blakey was our teacher, of which I thought a lot of then and still do today. I’m sure she wondered what we would come back smelling like. We killed the skunk and no one got sprayed.
Moving on, for the fall of 1949 I attended Toulon high School where I played and loved football. In 1952 I was honored by the Toulon Lions as “the most valuable player,” that’s about all I did. In the summer between my sophomore and junior year I asked Marilyn Dexter if I could take her home and she said “yes.” I don’t believe either of us ever dated anyone else. In 1953 we were married and started our life together. I continued to work for my father on the farm. We started our family of which we had 3 children Robert, Deborah and Ronald. We have 9 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. In 1955 we rented the John Leitch farm and started farming on our own and we still farm that land today. Farming in the 50’s and 60’s was hard. In 1960 I was blessed to get a job at the Allendale Mine, working 7 days a week 10 hours a day. The Lord sure blessed us when I got to work there. In 1970 farming became a little better; we purchased our first piece of land in 1965, on contract. We have purchased a number of farms over the years. The State Bank of Toulon was a great blessing to work with.
While in high school I was baptized at the First Baptist church. I served as a deacon for a number of years, moderator for 12 years and an usher for over 30 years. In 1989 Orville King helped me, or I helped him, along with many others to put a new Baptistery in because each time there was a baptism I would wonder if the front wall on that large tank would break. What a mess that would have been with all of that water all over the sanctuary. When we took the wall out we saw how bad it really was. It all worked out and we have been very proud of it ever since! Thanks to the Lord. In 1997 we built the new restrooms and the handicap ramp onto the back of the church. Cal Lomelino worked with me every day and many others helped when they could. Dwain Allen did the electrical work, Harry Foglesong did the plumbing and between all of us we made it happen.
I have served on many boards. I served on the school board for 12 years, starting on the Toulon Elementary, then Toulon-LaFayette Unit Board. During this time I chaired the Ad-Hoc committee for two years. We brought together the LaFayette Elementary and High School, West Jersey Elementary, Elmira Elementary and Toulon Elementary and High School together to form the Toulon-LaFayette Unit District. I also served 8 years on the Stark County board and was chairman all those years.
Marilyn and I were married for 61 years. She was a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and partner in making decisions and if I was interested in buying a farm, we would talk it over and she would say “whatever you want to do” and she was there to help make it work. After dealing with Parkinson’s for 18 years and extreme cancer for a month, the Lord took her home on the last day of the year in 2014. Having my brother Bill’s wife pass just 4 months before and him being in the hospital for a valve replacement, I had to get her home to Illinois so I knew the challenge of bringing Marilyn back home. Being a friend of the funeral director in Florida and also of Bert in Toulon was a very big help. There were a few hitches with the airlines, but everything worked out fine.
I am very happy and thankful for the years we had together and the family we have.
I have a new friend, Linda Storey. Both of us having lost out spouses, the Lord has brought us together. We don’t know how, but it happened. We are very happy and hope to have many years together.
Thank you for allowing me to be your badge honoree.
I love Toulon and Stark County.
- Gypsy Co-Eds Silver Streak Model T at Galva Car Show
- County Watch—Phil and Doug; Pastor Al; Pastor Ron; Thomas; Victoria; clowning around