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Published: Saturday, 12/28/2002

Sheriff liked to go out and patrol

FINDLAY - William R. Bell, the Hancock County sheriff from 1965 to 1981 who for the last 21 years ran a security firm he owned, died Wednesday of an apparent heart attack at his home in Hancock County's Liberty Township. He was 74.

He was a certified private investigator and continued to work as owner of Bell Security Service, which provides guards, conducts investigations, and installs alarm systems.

“He still liked to go out and patrol,” his son Cris said.

Mr. Bell founded the firm in 1975 while still sheriff. To avoid any conflict, his son Craig resigned as a sheriff's deputy and ran the business until Mr. Bell left office, son Cris said.

Mr. Bell was a 12-year veteran of the Ohio State Highway Patrol when he decided to run for sheriff in 1964. He'd been a trooper in Delaware, Ohio, and Findlay, and was about to be re-assigned to Delaware.

“He wanted to carry on public service in the area he grew up in,” son Cris said. “He wanted to keep his family here.”

A Republican, Mr. Bell defeated Sheriff Carson Davis, a Democrat, and was re-elected in 1968, 1972, and 1976. Early on, he mandated that would-be deputies receive academy training, a new practice for the office, said son Cris, currently a deputy.

Mr. Bell had the high regard of deputies and prosecutors.

“You could always go to him when you had questions about the Ohio Revised Code,” said current Sheriff Michael Heldman, who was 21 in February, 1972, when Sheriff Bell hired him. “He stayed up with the changes in the law. He was very well-respected. He had a take-charge attitude.''

Hancock County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Niemeyer said: “You always knew where you stood with the man.

“He was willing to discuss matters and reach a decision, and that was that,” said Judge Niemeyer, who was assistant prosecutor from 1976 to 1984 and prosecutor from 1985 to 1990.

Still, the sheriff was open to new ideas, Judge Niemeyer recalled, and “he had the ability to know those he worked with and know what would work and what wouldn't work.”

Every four years, the sheriff got the same question: “`You're running again, aren't you?'” son Cris said. “He didn't want to let people down who were counting on him.”

Mr. Bell was defeated in a five-way Republican primary in 1980 by Byron Boutwell. But “he wasn't upset to have been defeated, in all honesty,” son Cris said. “He was ready to get out.”

Mr. Bell grew up in Liberty Township and was a 1945 graduate of Liberty High School. He was a forestry worker and a Korean War-era Marine Corps veteran, serving stateside.

He was a member of Powell United Methodist Church.

He was a past director of the Buckeye State Sheriff's Association and was a member of Ralph D. Cole American Legion post, Findlay.

Surviving are his wife, Lois, whom he married July 31, 1950; sons, Craig, Brian, Brad, Brent, and Cris Bell; mother, Martha Bell, and 13 grandchildren.

Services will be at 2:30 p.m. today in the Coldren-Crates Mortuary, Findlay, with visitation after 1:30 p.m.

The family requests tributes to Toys for Tots, the American Red Cross, or a charity of the donor's choice.

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