In remembrance: 24 notable lives lost in the region in 2018

Politicians, former police officers, school officials, business owners, community leaders, veterans and sports legends were among area residents who died this year.

Here’s a look at some of the region’s notable losses of 2018:

Howard Beissinger earns ‘Hambo Howard’ name

Howard F. Beissinger, 94, a member of the Harness Racing Hall of Fame for 44 years, died Feb. 6 in Hamilton, only a few miles from where he was born.

He won the Hambletonian, America’s greatest trotting classic, three times, earning the nickname “Hambo Howard.” He enjoyed international fame and raced across the United States and Canada and at tracks in Russia, Germany, Sweden and Italy.

He was a member of the Ohio Harness Racing Hall of Fame and the Butler County Sports Hall of Fame.

He’s best known as the trainer and driver of the great trotter and stallion Speedy Crown. Speedy Crown was foaled in early 1968 and raised on the Beissinger family farm in Hamilton. Speedy Crown won the 1971 Hambletonian in straight heats and went on to a breeding career that would make him legendary in the world of trotting.

Donald Bishop ‘very proud’ of military service

Donald Bishop, of Franklin, a member of the U.S. Army who fought during the Battle of the Bulge, died May 12 at Hospice of Butler-Warren Counties. He was 92.

Bishop marched one day under Gen. George Patton and was on the “front lines” for 30 days, said Janese Griffin, one of his daughters. She said her father was “very proud” of his military service and talked about those experiences more recently.

He graduated from Carlisle High School in June 1944 and was drafted into the Army two months later. After the war, he served as a supply clerk in Germany, his daughter said. He returned to Warren County in 1946.

Bishop was employed with Miami Conservancy for 25 years and retired in 1986. He specialized in flood control. After work, he farmed in Carlisle where he raised cattle and hogs and grew tobacco, his daughter said. He also grew soybeans, corn and wheat on land he rented along the Great Miami River in Middletown.

Sam Boymel a ‘true pioneer’ in Fairfield

A “true pioneer” of the Fairfield business community was 94 when he died on Jan. 19.

Sam Boymel, who owned properties throughout Butler County, including three elderly care facilities, was a Holocaust survivor. He came to the United States with his wife Rachel and had $7 in his pocket, given to him by U.S. soldiers, said Andrea Thaman, corporate director of marketing and admissions at the care facilities.

“He epitomized the American dream,” Thaman said. “He turned that money into an empire.”

In 1968, Boymel purchased Garden Manor in Middletown, then an eight-bed farmhouse operated by few full-time employees. Today, Garden Manor Extended Care on Ohio 4 has more than 300 beds. He also owned Tri-County Care Center that he purchased in 1978 and Fairfield Pavilion that he opened in 2001.

Boymel traveled daily between Garden Manor and Fairfield, always checking on his employees, making sure they had hot meals. He frequently brought in bagels and pastrami and wanted his employees to eat lunch with him.

Thaman described Boymel as a well-dressed, charming and kind man who always took care of others.

“A super guy,” she said. “A real sweetheart.”

His motto: “Never forget from where you came.”

Ralph Rogan ‘Pat’ Carruthers ‘truly one of the greatest Hamilton residents ever’

Ralph Rogan “Pat” Carruthers, Hamilton resident and generous philanthropist, died June 10 at age 88.

Mr. Carruthers was a descendant of the Procter family of Procter & Gamble, and grew up on a cattle farm in Glendale. He served eight years in the Marine Corps before attending Miami University with the class of 1953. Following his time in school, he moved to Hamilton for a job at Champion Paper Company where he met his wife, Donna.

Donna inspired Mr. Carruthers to give back, starting with an initiative to help families in need each year at Christmastime.

“He was truly one of the greatest Hamilton residents ever,” Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller told the Journal-News. “We honored him with a lifetime award for the character he has shown and we were proud to give that to him.”

Together, the Carruthers donated millions of dollars to their beloved communities, supporting organizations such as the Greater Hamilton Civic Theater, the Boys and Girls Club of Hamilton, the Hamilton Police Department, and the Christ Church of Glendale.

In 2002, the couple donated $2.5 million to the Fitton Center for Creative Arts for a Carruthers Center for Arts and Technology, and exceeded a $10 million donation to the Fort Hamilton Hospital for a Ralph Rogan Carruthers Intensive Care Unit and the Donna Y. Carruthers Cardiovascular Services Suite.

James Brown ‘a great guy to work with’

Former Hamilton and Middletown Schools Principal James Edward Brown cared deeply about students and preparing the next generation of school leaders during his decades in education.

A former Hamilton Citizen of the Year, Brown died Dec. 4 after an illness that saw him return to his hometown of Sandusky, Ohio to live out his last days in a hospice care center. He was 71.

Brown started with the Hamilton schools in 1973 and later was principal of Garfield Junior High School and Roosevelt Junior High School. He left Hamilton Schools in 1992 to become principal of Middletown High School and later Trotwood High School.

Hamilton Board President Steve Isgro was city police officer whose beat in the 1970s included schools that Brown led. He described the former school administrator as deeply caring and involved with the youth of the city.

“Jim knew every one of his students, and he knew everything about their families,” said Isgro. “He was a great guy to work with.”

Brown retired in 2005 after 35 years in education.

He was named Hamilton’s Citizen of the Year in 1989, received the Southwestern Ohio Administrator Award, was honored with a “Jim Brown Day” in Hamilton.

Bob Burns ‘attracted people to him’

Hamilton native Bob Burns was successful enough in music and social media that he earned mentions in Rolling Stone magazine’s American and European editions.

He died on Oct. 19 of a sudden illness. He was 48.

As lead singer of the band Big in Iowa, which toured nationally and in Europe during the late 1990s into the early 200os, his singing was described in the magazine in Europe. Former bandmate Rick House of Middletown said the magazine described him this way: “Bob sounded like if Van Morrison played with the Rolling Stones — that’s what they compared his voice and our music to.”

Longtime friends and family say his wit and magnetic personality made him a success, and a leader in what he did.

John Wilkerson, who had known Burns since age 9, said, “He was always very witty, and he just attracted people to him. Strangers became friends immediately.”

He graduated from Hamilton High School in 1989, later serving in the Army during Operation Desert Storm. He attended Miami University but after forming a band, left to pursue a music career.

Elsa Croucher ‘brought attention to abuse’

Elsa Croucher, who spent more than 20 years advocating for victims of domestic violence after her daughter was murdered, died April 19 surrounded by family and friends in her Monroe home.

Croucher, who along with her husband, Jim, founded Citizens Against Domestic Violence in 1996 and created a teen dating violence prevention program, Dating Violence: 101. She was 78.

Nationally recognized speakers, the Crouchers furthered their efforts to educate the public about domestic violence with their efforts in the passage of the Tina Croucher Act in 2009. Tina Croucher, 18, died at the hands of her abusive ex-boyfriend four days before Christmas in 1992. He then committed suicide.

Bridget Mahoney, Ohio Domestic Violence Network Chair Elect, said Elsa Croucher displayed “strength and courage” as she and her husband spoke to hundreds of thousands of students after losing their daughter.

“She saved a number of lives and helped a lot of us deal with abuse,” Mahoney said. “She brought attention to abuse. She helped us deal with the process. Heaven gained an angel today.”

Bob Dawson lived ‘long, full life’

Robert “Bob” Dawson lived “a good, long and full life,” his son said.

Dawson, a World War II veteran, worked for the City of Hamilton as an electrician in the metering department for 42 years and was married to the “love of his life,” Verna, for 55 years until her death.

Dawson died June 27 at Fort Hamilton Hospital. He was 90.

Steven Dawson, 63, said his parents met while working together at LeSourdsville Lake Amusement Park in Monroe, then got married on June 6, 1953.

“I never saw them argue, fight, or be mad at each other,” Dawson said. “That was impressive. After her death, he really missed her.”

Dawson said his father “appreciated” his job with the City of Hamilton that allowed him to raise his family, including his three children. His gravestone will include an insignia of the city of Hamilton and local IBEW No. 648, his son said.

Dawson attended the University of Cincinnati for two years before graduating from the Evening School for Electricity in 1954. He was a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church. He served in the U.S. Army during in the occupation Army of Japan at the end of World War II.

Paul Demostenes was ‘a loving guy’

Paul Demostenes changed people by just walking in a room, his family said.

“He loved to smile and he was a loving guy,” said Diana Ballard, a daughter.

Demostenes, a Korean Conflict veteran, died May 7 at his Middletown home. He was 87.

Ballard said her father taught her several life lessons: the Golden Rule, two wrongs don’t make a right, and never say anything negative about a person.

“I still try to live that way,” his daughter said.

Donnie Melton, one of Demostenes’ sons, called his father “one of a kind” because he “cared about people.”

Ballard said her father had biological children and step-children, but he referred to all of them as “his children.”

Demostenes worked as a test board operator for Ohio Bell, retiring in 1985 after 30 years. He served his country in the U.S. Navy and was a member of American Legion Post 218, V.F.W No. 3809 and DAV No. 131.

Phyllis DiStaola ‘a wonderful neighbor’

Phyllis DiStaola, who taught in Ross and Hamilton school districts before retiring in 1995, died June 16 at Mercy Hospital of Fairfield. She was 80.

She worked five years in the Ross district, then started working in Hamilton in the 1974-75 school year, according to district records. She taught businesses courses at Taft, Garfield and Hamilton high schools.

She was active at Berkeley Square Retirement Community, and was the past president of the Women’s Italian American Society and American Association of University Women. She enjoyed gardening, reading, and golfing.

She lived at Berkeley for four years and in that time, she made many friends, said Miranda Sitchanoff, vice president of health services there.

“She was a wonderful neighbor,” said Sitchanoff, noting DiStaola walked the community’s one-mile loop path twice a day. “She was energetic, vibrant and cheerful.”

Russell Dwyer ‘proud to be a policeman’

There were two sides to Russell Dwyer. He was a cop and a comic.

Dwyer, who served as Middletown’s police chief from 1975-87, was 80 when he died on April 23.

Longtime friend Ann Mort, who, along with her husband, Dick, frequently traveled with the Dwyers and other couples to Middletown basketball and football games, said he was “a real showman.”

After Middie games, they went to Lakeside Inn, pushed tables together in the dining room, and danced and sang songs playing on the jukebox.

“Russ was fun,” Mort said. “He could have been a stand-up comic.”

He had a serious side, too. Mort said Dwyer enjoyed it when Middletown police officers wore their dress uniforms and hats.

“He was proud to be a policeman,” she said.

Dwyer graduated from Franklin High School, attended Miami University, and was later awarded the Bishop Medal and was a graduate of the FBI Dignitary Protection Academy. He retired after 27 years of service from the City of Middletown/Division of Police, where he served as police chief for 13 years.

David Fant ‘wanted to be like his dad’

When David Fant began his law enforcement career 34 years ago in Butler County, his newlywed wife, Cindy, would sit at home, nervously listening to the police scanner.

Sometimes, after hearing a potentially dangerous call, she’d call her husband to see if he was safe.

After several late-night calls, Fant told his wife the scanner was “a really bad idea” and he took it away.

“Police work was his entire life…,” Cindy Fant said.

On those “scary nights,” she remembered what her husband often told her: “If I die in the line of duty, it’s OK because that’s the way it was meant to be.”

Fant, 57, a former Hamilton police officer and Butler County Sheriff’s Deputy, died Oct. 6 after an eight-year battle with brain cancer. He retired from the sheriff’s office in 2010. He had lost his vision and use of his extremities, and had been bedridden for months, his wife said.

He certainly got his passion for police work honestly. His father, Claude, was a Hamilton police officer and firefighter.

“He wanted to be like his dad,” his wife said.

Even after retiring because of the cancer, Fant worked one year with the sheriff’s office maintenance department, said Butler County Sheriff’s Maj. Mike Craft.

“He wanted to be a part of this place, just be a part of the organization,” Craft said.

Dr. Stan Goodman ‘loved kids’

Dr. Stanley “Stan” Goodman, the first pediatrician in Fairfield, died May 28. He was 88.

Fairfield Mayor Steve Miller, 52, said Dr. Goodman was his pediatrician until he was 18. He remembers Goodman’s trademark white lab coat that was covered with colorful buttons and pins earning him the nickname: “Dr. Stan the Button Man.”

Miller added: “He loved kids.”

Dr. Goodman served as physician for the Fairfield City School District and performed sports physicals for free.

“Everybody got to see Dr. Goodman,” Miller said. “He was a really good guy who cared about the community. He will be missed within this community. He was an incredible human being.”

Dr. Goodman was the first full time physician in Fairfield, practicing for 50 years. He founded Pediatrics Associates of Fairfield and retired from that practice after 39 years of service to the community.

His community service included: Fairfield Tempo Club; giving safety talks at the Fairfield Justice Center; Kids Safety Fair; and calling Bingo at the Fairfield Pavilion for eight years.

Roy Hounchell ‘ate, slept, drank’ police work

Being a Fairfield police officer was a way of life for Ray Hounchell.

“He was a guy who you wanted to train the new guys,” said Ed Roberts, who worked with Hounchell on the police department and later at Fairfield Municipal Court. “Ray ate, slept and drank the Fairfield Police Department.”

Hounchell died Dec. 19 at the Veranda Gardens Nursing Home in Hamilton County. He was 77.

He was an innovator of sorts in community policing, said Fairfield police Officer Doug Day. He went to the schools to talk with students and spoke to organizations in the community. Nowadays, community policing is commonplace, but Day said Hounchell was doing it “way before it was a popular thing to do.”

Hounchell, a U.S. Army veteran, was hired by the Fairfield Police Department on Aug. 15, 1969. He worked his way up to sergeant and lieutenant, and retired in 1997, 28 years to the day of when he was hired.

Among his honors was an award in 1976 for Outstanding Ohio Police Officer in the Field of Highway Safety.

Gordon Hughes had ‘a beautiful mind’

David Hughes called his father “the best man I ever knew.”

Gordon Elliott Hughes, an Armco executive and Middletown community leader, died July 21 at Atrium Medical Center. He was 95.

Hughes said his father was “very, very active” and possessed “a beautiful mind” until he recently was diagnosed with pneumonia.

“He was sharp,” his son said. “We’re so thankful and so lucky.”

Even though Hughes was active in the community, he always had time for his family. His father attended his sons’ activities and obtained the training to be a swim judge.

“He set an example I can’t match,” said Hughes, 65. “I just admired him.”

Hughes graduated from Middletown High School in 1939, then enrolled at Oberlin College when he was 16. He graduated from Oberlin in 1943 with a bachelor’s degree in history and political science. He served in the U.S. Army from 1943 until 1946 in the Southwestern Pacific.

Hughes began his Armco career in 1946 as a production checker at Middletown Works. He was named branch manager in Venezuela in 1952. Five years later, he and his family returned to Middletown where he became branch manager of Allied Products Sales for Armco International.

In 1963 he was named assistant director of personnel and in 1965 was named director of personnel. He served as assistant vice president of personnel for Armco’s Steel Group and assistant to the president before being elected vice president of the Eastern Steel Division.

He was named Steel Group vice president in 1974 and a member of the four-man Corporate Executive Office. He became vice president administration in 1978 and retired from Armco in 1979.

Everett Metzger was ‘honest, hard working’

Everett Metzger, affectionately known as the “Ice Cream Man,” died May 10. He was 86. He operated Metzger’s Dairy Clipper for years in Middletown.

One of his five children, Julie Arens, said her father wanted his children to have a Catholic education so he operated the ice cream truck when he got home from his job for the Department of Energy at the Miamisburg Mound as a quality assurance specialist, where he retired after 30 years of service.

“He was honest and hard working,” she said. “He liked to joke and tease.”

He also loved the neighborhood children. Arens said there were times when a child ran up to the ice cream truck with three pennies and a rock in their hand and her father would say: “OK, I can give you a small cone.”

Then on the last day of the ice cream season, right around Labor Day, Metzger would drive around and pass out his remaining ice cream for free. He also hired many Fenwick High School football players to work the truck.

Metzger served his country in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War.

Doug Miller ‘saved so many lives’

Doug Miller ministered to the homeless who live in a tent community near Hamilton Plaza while he lived among them, homeless himself.

“He was such a good man and had such an anointing,” said Barb Barker, one of the people closest to him. “He helped so many people.”

Miller, who was known at the camp as “Pops” and “Preacher Man” at the homeless camp, died May 26. He was 59.

“He was homeless by choice — that’s what he wanted to do,” said Barker, who helps the homeless with Hand of God Ministry. “He wanted to be there for the homeless, because they needed him. He felt that was his calling.

“He could have very easily have gotten a place of his own. But because his heart was with the troubled people, the homeless people, the addicts…. He saved so many lives. There was not one overdose that happened while he was on the hill in the past year.”

Miller graduated from Talawanda High School. An ace mechanic, he worked at Miller Motor and also in the automotive department at Walmart.

James Mitchell ‘do anything for anybody’

Angie Mitchell said her father, a longtime Hamilton restaurant owner, taught her the value of serving others and working hard.

James George Mitchell, who owned and operated Skyline Chili on High Street for 28 years, died in Hamilton. He was 65.

“My dad would do anything for anybody,” his daughter said. “He was just that type of person. His heart was huge.”

After the Skyline Chili closed, Mitchell, a U.S. Navy veteran, worked at Chesterwood Village as a dietary manager and in the kitchen for 14 years.

Charlotte Moon ‘was always smiling’

Charlotte Moon was “born to serve,” according to her family.

Craig Moon said his mother thoroughly enjoyed caring for others, whether delivering them meals in time of need, doing their laundry, or just entertaining guests.

“She was always smiling,” her son said. “If you asked her how she was feeling, she’d say, ‘I’m just fabulous,’ even when you knew she didn’t feel so fabulous.”

Charlotte Moon, born and raised in Middletown, died Oct. 25 at home. She was 95.

“She lived a long and healthy life,” said Craig Moon, who noted his mother was hospitalized once in her life, excluding childbirth.

She graduated from Middletown High School in 1941 and Miami University in 1945, earning a double major in biology and physical education. She taught at East High School in Columbus, Monroe High School and was an instructor at Miami University.

She volunteered many years with Doty House (now Abilities First) where she served on its board of directors and was its first woman president.

Scott Pohlman ‘always willing to help others’

Scott Pohlman’s heart was the size as his personality and love for his city of Hamilton: Big.

That heart, his friends and family said, was “made of gold.” He died on Oct. 2.

“He was a fun-loving guy and always willing to help others,” said his brother, Jeff Pohlman, owner of Pohlman Tires. “He cared about people and he cared about helping people.”

Pohlman, 60, last year bought the former Columbia Lanes, now known as Strikes at Columbia Lanes, 954 Pyramid Hill Blvd., and regularly used the business to host fundraisers for the community. Owning the business was something he always wanted to do, his brother said.

Bill Rathman Sr. ‘told me to keep my word’

William “Bill” Rathman Sr., a World War II veteran and Middletown community leader, died Sept. 15 in Hilton Head Island, S.C. He was 91.

Rathman served in the U.S. Navy and later transferred to the United States Air Force JAG Reserve. Soon after, he served as a commander of the American Legion Post 218 and was commended with the Outstanding Community Service Award.

He had a distinguished career as an attorney and was senior partner of his firm in Middletown. His career included serving as president of the Middletown and Butler County Ohio Bar associations and the Federal Bar Association Cincinnati Chapter. He also served 12 years on the Ohio State Bar Association’s Council of Delegates. He was elected as a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and served on the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners and Grievances.

Rathman’s nephew Tim Carlson, a Middletown attorney, said his uncle taught him the importance of following through on promises.

“He told me to keep my word,” Carlson said. “That’s when a handshake meant something.”

He served on boards of many civic/community organizations including the Butler County Park Commission, United Way, Junior Achievement, Arts in Middletown, Boy Scouts, Comprehensive Counseling Service and the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges.

Cecil Richardson ‘my hero, my father’

When Cecil Richardson was 17, he enlisted in the Army, thinking he would be sent to Germany.

But he was shipped to Korea, and while on the vessel, many of the soldiers got sick, some of them dying.

“He had an early brush with death,” said his daughter Linda Richardson, 60.

Instead, Richardson served his country and lived another 72 years.

Richardson, 89, a World War II veteran, died April 28 after battling dementia for several years, his daughter said.

“He was my hero, my father,” she said.

Her father was generous, had an unwavering faith, loved golf, showed his three children his work ethic and was always honest, his daughter said.

“You never questioned his integrity,” she said. “He lived a great life.”

Richardson was a member of Lakota Hills Baptist Church, where he taught Sunday school and sang in the choir. He was a member of the Washington Lodge 17 Masons, the Washington Chapter 195 of the Eastern Star, and the Kiwanis.

John Stewart ‘ultimate family man’

John Stewart, a former Hamilton city council member, who remained active in government after he was out of office, died May 6. He was 87.

Stewart, a 1948 graduate of Hamilton High School, worked as a machinist at Hamilton Tool Co. He was elected to the city council and served from 1980 to 1983. Deborah Stinger said her father continued to regularly attend council meetings even after he was no longer a council member.

He was a member of the Allison Avenue Baptist Church, the Hugh Bates Masonic Lodge No. 686, and the Hamilton High Twelve Club No. 414, where he served on several committees.

His daughter described him as honest and respectful and said he always let her “learn from my mistakes.”

He also was a “devoted husband for sure,” his daughter said. “The ultimate family man.”

Jared Whalen ‘a good dude to hang out with’

The parents of a Butler County chef said his life shouldn’t be measured in years.

While Jared Whalen, of Hamilton, died Aug. 20 of heart failure, ending his life prematurely, his parents, Jack and Karen, said he lived life to the fullest because of his varied interests and outgoing personality.

“He got a lot out of his 44 years,” his father said. “People always said, ‘He was a good dude to hang out with.’”

Whalen was a noted outdoorsman, but he was best known for his cooking ability.

Often referred to as a “chef’s chef,” Whalen worked at many of the best restaurants in the Cincinnati area before becoming the executive chef at the Coach House Tavern & Grille in his hometown.

The 1993 Hamilton High School graduate attended Regis University in Denver, Colo., and graduated from the New England Culinary Institute in 2000. He interned with Chef Jean-Robert de Cavel at The Maisonette in Cincinnati, and was hired there when the internship was completed.

He later was named Chef de Cuisine at Pho Paris in Cincinnati, which was ranked one of the city’s Top 10 restaurants by Cincinnati Magazine.

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