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Published: Sunday, 12/4/2005

Hamler man sold cars, farm machines

HAMLER, Ohio - Ernest Bichan, who owned a Chevrolet dealership here for many years, died yesterday in the Otterbein-Leipsic Retirement Community, where he lived for the last few years. He was 101.

Family members did not know the cause of death.

Mr. Bichan, who owned and operated Bichan Chevrolet for 67 years, also sold Allis-Chalmers farm machinery.

Born in Kirkwald, Orkney, on the mainland of an archipelago of islands in northern Scotland, Mr. Bichan came to the United States in 1921, following his brothers who all emigrated to Ohio in search of jobs, said Peg Schwiebert, his daughter.

The youngest of 13 children, Mr. Bichan was 17 when he settled in Ohio and started working as a manual laborer on construction projects in Cleveland. The son of a fisherman, he came to America because "there were almost no jobs in the working-class fishing community of his home," Mrs. Schwiebert said.

"He was a really nice gentleman and a very hard-working man," said Janet Bichan, his daughter-in-law. Her husband, Robert, who died in 2004, took over the family business before it changed ownership in 1997.

The elder Mr. Bichan, who owned his business at the age of 25, initially sold tractors, combines, lawn mowers, and other farm-related equipment before he opened the car dealership, his daughter said.

He also worked with an elder brother, Thomas, in the car business, and volunteered with the Liberty Center Volunteer Fire Department for a number of years before opening his car dealership, which is now known as the Hamler Dealership.

Mr. Bichan married Bernice Warner on June 18, 1930. She died in 1996.

"He had a nice, outgoing personality and liked to tell stories about growing up in Scotland and the weather there. He said it was always damp, cold, and chilly," Mrs. Bichan recalled.

She said that Mr. Bichan spent most of his time working and had little time for hobbies. But he was especially happy when his son and one of his daughters took him on a two-week trip to visit the village of his youth in Scotland in 1997.

"We had a great time," Mrs. Schwiebert said. "He met some of his friends whom he had spent many years writing to and even a young man who worked at a bookstore who never believed he would ever see his pen pal."

He was an avid reader and "a great letter writer," Mrs. Schwiebert said. She also said he was innovative and very resourceful and once built her a metal scooter with rubber wheels. "He could fix anything with wood and metal," she said.

A longtime member of the Liberty Center Free and Accepted Masons, Mr. Bichan also was a longtime member of St. John's United Church of Christ in Holgate, Ohio. Before that, he was a member of the Hamler Methodist Church.

Surviving are his daughters, Elaine Stevens, Peg Schwiebert, and Carol Beilharz; nine grandchildren; 21 great-grandchildren, and a great-great-grandson.

Visitation will be after 2 p.m. today in the Wright Funeral Home, Liberty Center, where Masonic services will be at 7 tonight. Funeral services will be at 3 p.m. tomorrow in the funeral home.

The family suggests tributes to the St. John's United Church of Christ in Holgate, the Liberty Center Volunteer Fire Department, or a charity of the donor's choice.



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