SANDUSKY - J. Philip Gasteier, 79, a former Erie County commissioner who owned the former Gasteier's Strawberry Hill Farm Market in the county's Groton Township, died Saturday in Firelands Regional Medical Center in Sandusky.
He had several health problems. The family did not know the cause of death.
Mr. Gasteier, a Democrat who first ran for county commissioner in 1956 at age 28, was elected on his second try in 1970. He served three consecutive terms from 1970 to 1982. Before that, he was at different times the constable and a trustee for Erie County's Oxford Township.
"He was a visionary," his son Chris said. "He wanted Erie County to grow. He had ideas for the county, and he fought for those ideas to be implemented."
As a commissioner, Mr. Gasteier, was instrumental in establishing Osborn Park in Huron Township, bringing the Sandusky Mall to Perkins Township, and expanding sewer service.
He also helped supervise the construction of the Erie County Care Facility and the restoration of what is now the Erie County Service Center, his son said.
Most recently, from the late 1990s until about 2004, the elder Mr. Gasteier served on the board of Serving Our Seniors, a not-for-profit organization in Sandusky.
Mr. Gasteier, who retired from farming in 1995, owned and managed Gasteier's Strawberry Hill Farm Market at State Rt. 4 and State Rt. 99 from its inception in 1983 until 1997, when the business was sold.
He and his wife, Mary, whom he married in 1948, also owned and operated Strawberry Hill Farm about a mile east of the market, a 120-acre family farm, which his family owned since 1811. She died in 1980.
Soon after selling the market, Mr. Gasteier opened the Barn, an antiques business, which he ran at the farm homestead until closing it in 2006.
A native of Groton Township, Mr. Gasteier was raised on the family farm, graduating in 1945 from Sandusky High School.
While farming, Mr. Gasteier was at different times a carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, sang on WLEC-AM (1450), was a hotel manager, an automotive products salesman, and a sales manager for a meats store, all in the Sandusky area.
Surviving are his sons, Philip and Chris, and four grandchildren.
Visitation will begin at 2 p.m. tomorrow in David F. Koch Funeral Home, Sandusky. Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Old Calvary Church, Sandusky, where the body will be after 10 a.m. Saturday.
The family suggests tributes to the J. Philip and Mary Ellen Gasteier Scholarship Fund at Perkins High School, Sandusky.