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Deaths

Wood Co. farmer was auditor for 23 years

Harold R. Bateson, 1925-2011

RUDOLPH, Ohio -- Harold R. Bateson, 86, an elected officeholder in Wood County for 35 years, most of it as county auditor, died Tuesday in Wood Haven Health Care, Bowling Green, of congestive heart failure.

He was a Liberty Township farmer for more than 60 years, and he closed his tenure in public service when his term ended in January, 2009, on the state committee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency. He had sought that appointed post, his grandson, Steve Bateson said, because he still wanted to stay active.

Mr. Bateson, a Republican, was first elected county auditor in 1970. He put in place programs to benefit farmers that were adopted statewide. He had computers installed before they were common among county auditors.

Other officeholders sought his advice about politics and finance.

"Harold was a politician's politician," said Jim Carter, president of the Wood County Board of Commissioners. "[He was] a good common-sense farmer and banker, and he was involved in so many organizations, I don't think you could call him any one [thing] in particular.

"He knew ground-level politics. He knew finances and wasn't afraid to speak out. He wasn't one to be bashful."

On the farm or in the county courthouse, "He was interested in trying things to be a little bit innovative," his grandson said. "He wasn't afraid to make a mistake. I think that's what made him a good politician and a good manager."

He retired from office in 1993 and was succeeded by Mike Sibbersen, his chief deputy, who has been re-elected since.

Mr. Bateson was a former president of the County Auditors Association of Ohio. He had been a director of North Baltimore Bank, Bank of Wood County, and Huntington National Bank. He was on the board of the county soil and water conservation district.

A brief appointment to the former Liberty school board in the 1950s was followed by his election -- three times -- as a Liberty Township trustee.

A graduate of the former Liberty High School, he was a Marine Corps veteran of World War II and was discharged after an injury at Iwo Jima.

He worked as a janitor at his alma mater and was a tenant farmer until he had a chance in 1954 to buy the Wingston Road farm where he and his family settled down and went to work. He owned, with sons, Tom and Mike, 1,500 acres, and they farmed more than 2,000 acres.

"He always wanted to do more and achieve more. He never set limitations for himself, and he tried to bestow that on his kids and grandkids," his grandson said. "He took great pride in his farm. He was not a boastful person. He could be boastful, tongue-in-cheek. But he wasn't the type of individual who'd like to sit and coffee-shop talk. My grandfather could best be described as self-reliant."

He was a Mason, a Shriner, and a member of the Royal Order of Jesters and was recipient of the Spirit of Wood County award.

He was a member of Philippian United Methodist Church, Rudolph.

Surviving are his wife, Betty, whom he married in 1944; sons, Thomas and Mike Bateson; daughters, Sally Amos and Ann Rutter; 10 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday in the Dunn Funeral Home, Bowling Green, where visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. Thursday. The family suggests tributes to the development office of the Shriners Hospitals for Children, Tampa.

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

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