BLOOMDALE - William J. Mareches, 72, a former Bloomdale councilman and longtime firefighter known for his service to the village, died Saturday in Blanchard Valley Regional Health Center, Findlay.
Mr. Mareches fell ill at home and was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death had not been determined yesterday.
He had been a member of the Bloomdale volunteer fire department for 41 years and was active as a firefighter and emergency medical technician until his death, Chief Leonard “Red” Chapman said.
“We've been to a lot of big fires together, a lot of big accidents,” said Chief Chapman, who has headed the department since 1966. “The Monday before his death he responded to an accident with us.”
Mr. Mareches was a former lieutenant and assistant chief with the department, the chief said.
“Bill was very devoted to the fire department and the EMS both,” Mr. Chapman said. “He held various offices over the years. There wasn't anything that Bill wouldn't do for anybody.”
Mr. Mareches was a council member for more than 15 years beginning in the mid-1970s. He retired in 1992.
Mayor Rory Fitch, who replaced him on council, said Mr. Mareches was known as a dedicated volunteer.
“He's going to be missed by everybody around town, especially the fire department,” Mr. Fitch said.
Former Mayor Carol Kirby recalled how Mr. Mareches helped dig out and repair a broken water main during a cold snap in January, 1999. With temperatures below zero, the break cut off water service to the entire village of 700 people.
After the village backhoe broke down, Mr. Mareches, his son William, and Larry Householder grabbed shovels and spent a frigid night digging through ice, concrete, and dirt to find the broken pipe.
“That was the bitter cold, and Bill stayed right there with them and got the town back in operation,” Mrs. Kirby said. “If he'd hear that anybody was in trouble or needed help, Bill was there.”
Mr. Mareches was born in Boston on May 27, 1929. His son Robert said Mr. Mareches spent part of his childhood in northwest Ohio, in the Tiffin and Wayne areas, and attended high school in Missouri.
His father liked to tell the story of how he returned to Ohio after finishing school, Robert said.
“He said his graduation night he had 85 cents in his pocket, and he and his buddy hopped a train to get back to Ohio because they had relations here.”
Mr. Mareches married Opal Maxine Weiker on Sept. 1, 1948. He died on the couple's 53rd anniversary.
He worked for Grange Insurance for 27 years, first as an adjuster and then as manager of the insurer's Findlay office, Robert Mareches said. He retired in 1992.
Before joining Grange, he worked for 13 years as a radio officer and trooper for the Ohio Highway Patrol's Findlay post, his son said.
Besides his service on the fire department and village council, Mr. Mareches was a member of the Elmwood Athletic Boosters, Elmwood FFA Alumni, and Holy Family Catholic Church in Cygnet.
“He was always doing something for someone,” Robert Mareches said. “He didn't have it too good growing up, and I think he wanted other people to have it nice, knowing that there was help out there for them. He was a workhorse. He was always on the go.”
Mr. Mareches is survived by his wife, Opal; sons, William, John, and Robert; half-brother, Lynn Mareches, and half-sister, Marianna Ramm.
Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Smith-Crates Funeral Home, North Baltimore. Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in Holy Family Catholic Church, Cygnet.
The family requests tributes to the Bloomdale fire department or to Holy Family Catholic Church.