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Published: Saturday, 8/1/2009

WWII veteran, farmer founded furniture firm

LIBERTY CENTER, Ohio - Charles Romaker, 87, the founder of a furniture business who built roads and raised turkeys, died of congestive heart failure Friday in his home in Henry County's Washington Township.

Mr. Romaker was a heavy-equipment operator on road and building projects for the E.K. Bridge Construction Co. and the E.S. Wagner Co. He was a member of Local 18, International Union of Operating Engineers.

He built and remodeled homes too and was skilled with his hands.

He retired in 1984. His quest for something to do led him to fashion roll-top desks out of oak from his woods, said his daughter Janet Romaker Quinn, who is a Blade staff writer. The enterprise became Romaker Woodworking.

His son Joe, who left construction because of heart problems, came aboard and designed curio cabinets, entertainment devices, and custom pieces. Employees built the furniture in a workshop on the farm.

Romaker Woodworking also had a furniture store in Grand Rapids, Ohio.

His son died July 14, 2003, and Mr. Romaker closed the business.

Mr. Romaker was a farmer for many years. When the family lived in Swanton Township, he grew corn on his farm and worked other farms. While visiting a cousin who was the Liberty Center schools superintendent, he saw a farm for sale.

"He fell in love with it," his daughter said. "When he saw this farm, he saw opportunity."

They moved in 1960. In Henry County, he had pigs and a few steers. He grew corn and soybeans. And he and his wife, Barbara, had a thriving turkey business. Each fall, they loaded about 3,000 into semis bound for their holiday destinies, but inevitably "a few would get loose, and we'd hear them in the woods," his daughter said.

Whether it was midwinter or blazing summer, "he just loved the outdoors, and he liked watching things grow," his daughter said.

He was a gardener. He planted pear, apple, and tart cherry trees.

Once he made a slingshot-shaped prop, from scrap lumber, to hold up a bird's nest on a pear tree.

"That's just the kind of guy he was," his daughter said. "He showed us we were one with nature, and we should respect others."

He grew up in the Trilby area, now in West Toledo. He finished eighth grade at Irwin Road School and found work to help the family in those Depression days.

He was a Marine Corps veteran of World War II and served in Hawaii.

Surviving are his wife, Barbara, whom he married Dec. 12, 1946; son, Steven; daughters, Janet Romaker Quinn and Rebecca Trenchik; sister, Lois Styron; six grandchildren; five step-grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday in the Wright-Hobbs Funeral Home, Liberty Center, where visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday. The family suggests tributes to Colton United Methodist Church, Liberty Center, where he was a member.

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