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Published: Friday, 6/24/2011

Jason Bell, 1923-2011: Developer helped build up Bedford Township

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Editor's note: Because of incorrect information supplied to The Blade, the print version of this article misstated his American Legion Membership. Mr. Bell was a member of the American Legion Post 514 in Ida, Mich.

LAMBERTVILLE -- Jason Bell, a longtime home builder and developer who helped bring the postwar boom and suburban living to once-rural Bedford Township, died Tuesday in his home. He was 88.

The likely cause of death was heart-related, said his daughter, Kimberly, who helped care for him the last decade. He also had dementia and a condition known as pseudo-Parkinson's disease.

He formed Bell Builders in the mid-1950s. When he retired in 2000, he'd built more than 500 houses in Bedford Township and 150 more in Toledo and had a hand in 13 subdivisions, including Kimberly Oaks, named for his daughter.

"He just built most of Temperance and Lambertville," his daughter said.

His son Bradley said: "It's amazing how it's grown since he started."

Mr. Bell's "builder of the year" awards, bestowed by the former Michigan Consolidated Gas Co. and other entities, were not the reasons he worked.

"He was interested in making the buyer happy and being proud of the product," said Carole Bell Zion, his former wife. "He was highly respected. He liked knowing everybody, being a part of the community, being somebody who contributed to everybody's life."

His son added, "He was somewhat understated and didn't brag about his accomplishments."

Mr. Bell was a former member of the volunteer fire department and the township planning board.

His daughter hears regularly from people she doesn't know who say they live in a Bell-built house or that successive generations in their family had Mr. Bell build for them.

"Everyone looked up to him, and he was fair," his daughter said.

When he returned from Army service in World War II, he learned the building business by working for his uncle, Clifford "Chip" Bell, his former wife said. They dug basements, at first, using a horse-drawn device, and there were plenty to dig.

"When he got out of World War II, there was the beginning of financing like we never had, and people could buy houses who always had to rent," she said. "Here comes all these soldiers home, and they had money to buy a house."

He was born Feb. 22, 1923, in Samaria -- also in Bedford Township -- to Jennie and Clarence Bell. He was a graduate of Ida High School.

He was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. A poem he wrote about buddies killed on D-Day was published in veterans' magazines, his daughter said.

In the 1950s, as a pastime, he raced midget and dirt track cars, and he remained a fan of the sport. The family took annual trips to Indianapolis -- to watch the race and to visit his friend A.J. Foyt, his daughter said.

He was a deer hunter and an animal lover. He had a series of dogs through the years -- Tinkerbell, a schnauzer-poodle mix, being his latest -- but took care of the other creatures on his property.

"He would feed everything. He would feed the raccoons and wonder why the cable wires were chewed up under the house," his daughter said.

He was a member of Lambertville VFW Post 9656 and American Legion Post 514, Ida, Mich.

Surviving are his sons, Jason, Jr., and Bradley Bell; daughter, Kimberly Bell Koberstein, and a granddaughter.

Services, with military honors will be at 5 p.m. Monday in the Bedford Funeral Chapel, Temperance, where visitation will begin at 2 p.m. Monday.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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