Perrysburg Twp. trustee 28 years ran turkey farm


Richard H. Britten, 85, an elected official for 44 years, including 28 years as a Perrysburg Township trustee, and whose turkey farm produced the main course for area holiday tables over seven decades, died yesterday in his township home of congestive heart failure.

He had heart surgery in December, 2004, and afterward used oxygen and largely was confined to home, his son, Gary, said.

Mr. Britten left public office at the end of 2001 after deciding not to seek re-election to an eighth term as a Perrysburg Township trustee. His 28 years were a period of tremendous development in the suburban township, which grew from a population of 7,443, according to a 1975 U.S. Census estimate, to 13,613 by the 2000 Census. The township's annual budget grew from $1 million when he began to $10 million when he left.

"Dick did a lot of good for the township, and it's going to be different without him," said Barbara Gunn, a former township trustee and a former township clerk. "He was around a long time, and he was involved in a lot of the growth."

He liked talking to constituents, even when taking late night or early morning phone calls.

"He cared more about the people than he did for himself," said his son, a township trustee since January. "He enjoyed discussing the problems they had. He knew when he took the job, 'I'm at their beck and call,' and he was willing to take that. He was a good role model."

Mr. Britten was known for being straightforward.

"The people may not have wanted to hear it, but they really respected it," his son said. "He must have been doing something right. They re-elected him seven times."

Mr. Britten was chairman in June, 1999, when the trustees agreed to lend $5 million to the former Rossford Arena Amphitheater Authority. The project never managed to secure full financing and collapsed. In June, 2001, Mr. Britten moved to have the township file a lien against the agency and send it a bill for the loan - plus interest.

"We have made a lot of decisions, and we make the wrong one now and then," he told The Blade in December, 2001.

He was a member of the Perrysburg Board of Education from 1956 to 1971.

For Britten Turkey Farm, the 2003 holiday season was the last for which he raised turkeys. He decided to retire and close the operation in early 2004, just before he'd have to buy more than 1,000 day-old chicks so they would be ready that fall.

"After 62 years, it's time to quit," Mr. Britten told The Blade in 2004.

He started in 1941 with 200 turkeys. The farm at its peak raised 8,000 a year, said his son, who worked with his father. In the early years, Mr. Britten sold the birds to Tiedtke's and other stores. Later he sold the birds himself, retail, from the farm. Many customers were businesses that gave birds as holiday gifts to employees and clients.

Mr. Britten was a 1937 graduate of Perrysburg High School. He was an Army Air Corps flight instructor, stationed in Texas during World War II.

He was a member of the Wood County Republican Club and a former board member of what was then Mid Am Bank in Bowling Green.

He and his first wife, Fern, married Oct. 14, 1945. She died Jan. 22, 1981.

Surviving are his wife, Betty, whom he married June 21, 1986; daughter, Sandra J. Knudson; son, Gary Britten; stepsons, Tom and Bud Love; stepdaughters, Marilyn Feeback and Joan Fought; sister, Betty Heslup; four grandchildren; eight step-grandchildren; three great-grandchildren, and eight step-great-grandchildren.

The body will be in Witzler-Shank Funeral Home after 2 p.m. tomorrow. There will be no visitation Tuesday. Services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday in First United Methodist Church, Perrysburg, where the body will be after 9 a.m.

The family suggests tributes to the church, of which he was a member, or to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio.