FINDLAY — Byron J. Wise, a farmer on his family’s historic Hancock County homestead into his 80s and a farm community voice as a longtime member of his township’s zoning board, died Wednesday in Bridge Hospice Care Center, Findlay. He was 94.
He had a heart attack two years ago and was in declining health, his son Roger said, but until early this week lived on the farm that has been in the Wise family since the early 19th century. He retired about a decade ago, and his nephew Tom Wise has farmed the land since.
“He grew up on the farm, born in the farmhouse that was originally a log cabin, part of the homestead,” his son said. “He loved the land. That was his career.
“He could care less about cities, traveling, but to be on the land and develop the land into the most productive state that he could, that was his goal.”
Two practices contributed to his success, his son said: He rotated his crops and kept his fields properly drained.
“Every bit of land he has ever owned is tilled systematically, as it should,” his son said.
In the 1950s and 1960s, he was recognized for his corn yield and in recent decades concentrated on growing grain. But until the 1970s, he also raised livestock — some hogs and annually more than 300 beef cattle. Top restaurants in New York regularly bought his prime beef, his son said.
“He raised good quality crops and good quality animals,” his son said. “He learned it the hard way, the old-fashioned way. He understood the land and what it took.”
Mr. Wise was inducted in 2010 into the Hancock County Agricultural Hall of Fame. He was a former president of the county cattlemen’s association. He took part in farm organizations at the local and state levels and was recognized for farmland preservation, soil and water conservation, and drainage.
He served on the Marion Township zoning board from the early 1960s until the late 2000s, a period when Findlay grew — and when developers sought to build subdivisions and factories east of the city in the township.
“He didn’t like the fact that a lot of farmland was being eaten up,” his son said. Still, he supported developments that he believed fit their intended location and were the best use of the land.
“He took a very common sense approach to it,” his son said.
He was born April 5, 1919, to Jesse and Clarence Wise. He was a 1937 graduate of Findlay High School and afterward struck out on his own, farming land he rented.
He enlisted in the Army in World War II and was in the 45th Infantry Division. His service took him from North Africa to the beachhead at Anzio, Italy, and intense combat leading to the liberation of Rome. His unit helped liberate the prisoners at the Nazi’s Dachau concentration camp near Munich.
“The war had a tremendous impact on his life,” said his son, a retired Army colonel. “There wasn’t a day that he didn’t discuss an experience. He never forgot the memories of what he went through in World War II.”
Mr. Wise was a gun collector and a hunter — small game around the farm; later deer in Pennsylvania; grouse in southern Ohio. He told funny stories, although his humor generally was sly, his son said.
“He was a very conservative guy, church-going,” his son said. “He probably never had a drink in his life, never had a smoke in his life. He was clean-cut.”
He was a member of Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Marion Township.
His first wife, Genevieve, died in 1956.
Surviving are his wife Gertrude “Trudy” Wise, whom he married May 9, 1970; son, Roger Wise; daughters, Cindy Bish, Cathryn Parke, and Susan Slough; stepson, Jeff Essinger; stepdaughter, Jodi Noon; 20 grandchildren, and 23 great-grandchildren.
Services will be at 2:30 p.m. today in the Coldren-Crates Funeral Home, Findlay, where visitation will resume at 1:30 p.m.
The family suggests tributes to a charity of the donor’s choice.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.