COLUMBUS GROVE, Ohio - Richard C. Hartman, a longtime funeral director whose quiet, comforting ways propelled his family business through future generations, died Thursday in the Putnam Acres Care Center near Ottawa, Ohio. He was 95.
Mr. Hartman died after a bout with heart disease, family members said.
Born into the third generation of a line of funeral directors that started with his grandfather, John Hartman - who in 1889 founded the Hartman Sons Funeral Home and Hartman Sons Furniture Co. - Mr. Hartman started in the business by taking care of the horses that drew the home's ambulance and hearse.
He graduated from Columbus Grove High School in 1927, and kept on with his education at Defiance College, where he was class president for two years. He received a degree in business in 1931, and simultaneously graduated from the Columbus Training School for Embalmers. From there, he went immediately to the Cleveland College of Mortuary Science, and received his funeral director's license in 1934.
Then it was back to the family business, where he worked alongside his father, uncle, several cousins, and a brother-in-law.
"One of the toughest times in a survivor's life is to go through the death of a loved one - and my dad had a quality of being able to care for someone during that time," said his son, E. Lynn Hartman. "He was laid-back and quiet: He exuded feeling that made people comfortable."
With the onset of World War II, Mr. Hartman enlisted in the U.S. Army and became a supply sergeant stationed in New Orleans. When the war ended, he went back to the business he loved.
Family members said that strangely enough, Mr. Hartman was well-known for his sense of humor, bringing a sense of levity to those around him when he thought it was appropriate.
"I know humor and funeral service don't necessarily go together," his son said.
In 1988, Mr. Hartman sold the furniture store and worked solely with the funeral home.
He conducted his last funeral in 2002, his son said.
Although not overt in his support of the community, his son said, "Dad lent quiet support where it was needed - he was part of the fabric of the community, proud of what happened to it, and he worked hard behind the scenes to keep it together."
Mr. Hartman contributed greatly to Defiance College as an alumni; was a deacon, trustee, and treasurer for about two decades with the United Church of Christ; a member of Bower-Slusser American Legion Post 516, and a member of the local Lions Club.
Surviving are his son, E. Lynn Hartman; sister, Louise Stump, and four grandchildren.
Services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in the Hartman Funeral Home, with visitation after 2 p.m. today.
The family suggests tributes to the Columbus Grove EMS or to the Columbus Grove United Church of Christ.