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Published: Friday, 3/17/2006

Longtime area farmer led steam engine fans

OTTAWA LAKE - Marvin A. Brodbeck, 72, a longtime farmer in Monroe County's Whiteford Township and a former county fair board member who was president of a national association of steam engine devotees, died of a stroke March 9 in his winter home in Palmetto, Fla.

He was president for 27 years of the National Threshers Association, retiring several years ago. The group holds an annual reunion - the 62nd is planned for June - at the Fulton County Fairgrounds. Thousands attend to admire hundreds of steam engines and antique farm implements.

He credited the event's success to its glimpse into how farm tasks were tackled long ago.

"For some, it brings back special memories of the family farm," Mr. Brodbeck told The Blade in 2003. "For others, it provides a whole new perspective of the time and effort involved in harnessing steam power."

Mr. Brodbeck first went to the reunion in the 1960s, not as a participant, but because someone with a steam engine contacted the excavation business he ran to supplement his farm income, his son Roland said. The owner knew Mr. Brodbeck had the equipment to haul the steam engine to Wauseon for the reunion. Hauling engines became a regular summer job. Then Mr. Brodbeck, attending an estate sale, made the second bid on a steam engine to help the family involved. No one else bid.

Through the years, he became the owner of six engines.

"Everyone helped clean them, shine them, and run them around," his son said.

Mr. Brodbeck was a county fair board member until the mid-1990s. For more than 20 years, he ran Little Smokey Train, the steam-powered railroad at the fair. Son Roland now runs the train.

He grew up on the farm he eventually owned. He graduated from the former Burnham High School in Sylvania and was an Army veteran. He helped his father on the farm and with the excavation and land improvement business.

Mr. Brodbeck grew corn, wheat, soybeans and, on occasion, tomatoes and sugar beets on 1,200 acres. He was semiretired, but he continued to help his son, who has taken over farming and the excavation business.

Surviving are his wife, Shirley, whom he married Aug. 29, 1956; sons, Ken and Roland Brodbeck; daughters, Barb Brodbeck and Beth Vanarsdall; sisters, Marilyn Ostrander and Norma Coventry, and six grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. today in the Reeb Funeral Home, Sylvania. Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in Olivet Lutheran Church, of which he was a member.

The family suggests tributes to the American Parkinson Disease Association, Staten Island, N.Y.; Life Connection of Ohio, Maumee, or a charity of the donor's choice.

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