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Published: Monday, 2/5/2001

Ex-hardware store owner's heart was in farming

LEIPSIC - Earnest D. Radenbaugh, a former owner of Leipsic Hardware and former fire chief and village council member here, died Saturday in St. Rita's Medical Center, Lima, Ohio. He was 94.

He was diagnosed with lung cancer about three months ago, his sister, Dorothy Everley, said. He had lived about three years in the Otterbein Leipsic Retirement Community.

A native of Payne, Ohio, in Paulding County, Mr. Radenbaugh, whose nickname was “Shelley,” grew up on a farm about one mile outside the village.

“We raised everything. We had cows. We sold milk and raised, wheat, oats, and corn. The boys milked cows before they went to school. They got up in the morning and trapped animals,” Mrs. Everley said.

Mr. Radenbaugh graduated in 1924 from Payne High School, where he played basketball and football. After high school, he worked about seven years on the family farm and various jobs.

He married Marie Smith in 1931. She was a teacher, who in those days couldn't teach after marriage so the couple kept their nuptial a secret, Mr. Everley said.

“They got married and they kept the marriage secret for four years. They had to keep it secret. My father was on the school board, and young women were not allowed to be married and teach,” she said. His wife died in March, 1998.

Mrs. Everley said her brother went to Bowling Green State University after he married Marie, who often visited him on weekends. He played baseball and football at the college, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1934.

He was a physical education and industrial arts teacher at Leipsic High School from 1934 to 1944. He also coached the school's girls and boys athletic teams.

Mr. Radenbaugh officiated high school and college football and basketball games for 30 years.

He was a foreman at the former Westinghouse Plant in Lima from 1943 to 1945.

Mrs. Everley said her brother formed a business partnership with two other men that included owning and operating the former Leipsic Hardware, a farm implement dealership, and a farming operation.

Mr. Radenbaugh eventually took control of the hardware store, even though his heart was in farming. “He once said he loved to feel the dirt running through his fingers,” she said.

Mark Dresbach said he formed a friendship with Mr. Radenbaugh when he moved to Leipsic in 1965 to teach vocational agriculture at the high school. He said he bought items for his classes from the store.

“He understood the importance of customer service. He understood the importance of them being satisfied. He worked hard to keep his customers coming back to the store,” Mr. Dresbach said.

Mrs. Everley said Mr. and Mrs. Radenbach's oldest son, Michael, was born with cerebral palsy, and their daughter, Janet, started suffering seizures in high school.

As a young boy, Michael, went to a special school in Toledo, where Mrs. Radenbaugh kept an apartment to be near him while Mr. Radenbaugh stayed in Leipsic to care for their daughter, she said.

“Although he always said he had a wonderful life, he had to struggle,” Mrs. Everley said. “I never heard him complain one time in his life.”

Mr. Radenbaugh also was on village council and was the former village fire department chief. He sold the hardware store in 1971 and retired.

He was an avid Ohio State University basketball and football fan as well as teams from Bowling Green State University. He was a member of the college's President's Club and Falcon Club.

He was a member of the Ottawa Masonic Lodge, the Toledo Scottish Rite, Zenobia Shrine of Toledo, Leipsic Kiwanis, and First Christian Church, where he was an elder and deacon.

Surviving are his son Michael; daughter, Janet Radenbaugh, and sister, Dorothy Everley.

Services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in the Heitmeyer Funeral Home, where visitation will be after 2 p.m. today.

The family requests tributes to First Christian Church.



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