Wednesday, October 10th, 2007


County puts off tax decision
As the Hancock County Commissioners consider the budget crunch they've been in since the flood, one thing is certain: they won't impose a sales tax increase — not yet, anyway.
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Findlay flood victims get more answers
Frances Lockmiller had just one question Tuesday night.
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HPD preparing for 2008 levy request
Hancock Park District officials are preparing now for next year's attempt at a replacement levy for park operations.
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Homecoming begins Friday
The University of Findlay will celebrate Homecoming 2007: Celebrating the Past, Embracing the Future this weekend with a variety of activities.
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Nine UF alumni to be honored
Nine University of Findlay alumni will be honored during the Alumni Association Annual Breakfast to be held at 8:30 a.m. Saturday for homecoming weekend.
more >>
Suspected rapist found competent
A man who was linked to a series of area burglaries and rapes, stretching back 12 years, has been found competent to stand trial.
more >>
County grand jury indicts 9
A man has been indicted in connection with an assault of a local woman in Findlay last month.
more >>
Public Record
Docket
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Beloved clown made his final home in Findlay
EDITOR'S NOTE: Yesterday, The Courier published a story about a local magic club, with comments by club member Paul Ricksecker. But before Ricksecker became interested in magic, he had made a reputation for himself as Hoby the Clown. Ricksecker credits Zeke Lamont, who may have been the original Bozo the Clown, with giving him his start in clowning.
more >>
Local News

County puts off tax decision

By MICHELLE REITER

STAFF WRITER

As the Hancock County Commissioners consider the budget crunch they've been in since the flood, one thing is certain: they won't impose a sales tax increase — not yet, anyway.

The commissioners had talked last week about imposing an additional half-percent sales tax that would be collected starting in January, in order to replace flood-damaged county buildings downtown.

However, the commissioners would have to hold public hearings before imposing a tax hike, and the tax would have to be approved and ready to go by Oct. 26 in order to begin collecting the extra revenue by January.

There's just not enough time to do all those things, Commissioner Phillip Riegle told other elected county officials at a Tuesday morning meeting.

So any tax hike decision will come later, and any new tax revenue won't be received until later in 2008.

Financial concerns

The commissioners think the county government will need additional tax revenue in order to replace flood-damaged county buildings, and to replenish county money that's being used for flood expenses.

The commissioners have spent about half a million dollars so far on flood-related costs, which will reduce next year's carryover balance to a possible $2.9 million.

The carryover isn't a budget excess, officials pointed out Tuesday — the county needs to have at least $2.5 million in carryover to operate in January before other revenues begin coming in.

As it stands now, officials say county budget cuts are likely next year. The commissioners told other elected officials Tuesday that belt-tightening could mean budget cuts of 5 percent or more next year.

Officials have already said that those cuts could mean employee layoffs.

Hancock County Common Pleas Court Judge Joseph Niemeyer said Tuesday he feels the situation is already at a point of emergency, especially when it comes to the county employees.

He said the public needs to know just how much the county needs additional revenue.

Precia Stuby, director of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) agency, asked if the county could possibly make a temporary budget, maybe for six months, that could delay some of the difficult budget decisions until the county has a better idea of what its funding sources will be.

In that time, the county could decide whether to impose a tax increase or put one on the ballot, and determine what reimbursements it may be getting from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other sources.

Hancock County Auditor Charity Rauschenberg said a temporary budget could create a "domino effect" of uncertain variables — but it is possible.

Commissioner Riegle said if that's an option officials are interested in pursuing, he would be willing to discuss it.

"There is no win in this situation where we are," Commissioner Ed Ingold said.



County office space

The county's temporary modular units, which took the place of flood-damaged county offices, could be out of Dorney Plaza in a few weeks' time.

The Hancock County Commissioners said Tuesday they plan to lease office space at 100 E. Main Cross St., near the Golden Key Title offices and in the same area as U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan's office.

The commissioners and the other county departments that are now housed in Dorney Plaza will be moving to the leased space, except for Court-Appointed Special Advocates/Guardian Ad Litem (CASA/GAL), which will be moving to a house at 614 S. West St.

The Camp Fire group will allow CASA to use that house rent-free.

Contact Staff Writer Michelle Reiter at:

(419) 427-8497

michellereiter@thecourier.com

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Findlay flood victims get more answers

By JOHN GRABER

STAFF WRITER

Frances Lockmiller had just one question Tuesday night.

She wanted to know if she was approved for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, could she demolish her home in Findlay, which suffered substantial damage in the August flood, and use the money to build a new home on property she owns in North Baltimore? She knew she could build a new home, she just didn’t know if it could be in a different town.

“That’s the important part,” Lockmiller said.

The answer from SBA officials: the new home could be built anywhere in the United States, any of its territories or holdings.

“You could build a home in Hawaii,” Bob Barkhurst quipped. “I know it’s tough, Hawaii or North Baltimore ...”

Barkhurst is not with the SBA. He is the owner of Tri-Point Homes, but he moderated a meeting designed to give area residents the opportunity to ask questions of local businesses, contractors and SBA representatives.

While the final 15 minutes of the two-hour presentation was a sales pitch for Tri-Point Homes, most of the meeting was devoted to dispelling many of the flood-related myths that Barkhurst and various contractors have encountered over the last month and a half.

Mike Heyward, a local flood victim who was a driving force behind a town hall meeting last week with government officials, and who has coached public speakers in the past, said “the format was very appropriate.”

“He had more answers than you would expect,” Heyward said. “Normally (in a sales seminar) you want to leave them with more questions than answers because you want them to come to you with those questions. That was not the case here. The format was very appropriate.”

Much of Barkhurst’s energy on Tuesday was spent simply trying to convince the 40 or so people who attended to fill out an SBA loan application.

More than 6,000 SBA loan applications have been distributed in the counties hit by the flooding, but only about 16 percent of them have been filled out and returned.

That’s a mistake, because the applications are the doorway to a lot of federal disaster assistance not related to the low-interest loans offered by the SBA.

“Everyone should apply, there’s no risk, there’s no cost and it could make a lot of programs available to you,” Barkhurst said.

For instance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay up to 18 months of rental assistance, but only if an SBA application is on file.

Another seemingly little-known fact is that the Internal Revenue Service offers tax refunds based on the amount of damage suffered in a flood. Filling out an SBA application can help with that by giving homeowners an estimate of the damage based on the cost of replacement, not the resale value.

Barkhurst also addressed concerns like the fear that a home may look funny if it is raised out of the flood plain. That can be gotten around with tricks like extending aluminum siding down to cover cement footings, he said, or adding a front porch.

Another practical tip Barkhurst offered: if you take your SBA check to the bank, make sure you get a letter before you leave the premises stating what the bank intends to do with it. Banks will generally hold the money in an escrow account, releasing it as repairs are made, in order to ensure their investment is being protected, Barkhurst said.

However, the bank can also demand the money be used to pay down your mortgage.

Either way, the homeowner should get a letter from the bank stating what is happening to the SBA money. If the bank does decide to demand that the money be used to pay down the mortgage, the SBA may be able to provide further assistance to the homeowner, but only if it’s clear what is happening to the first check.

Contact staff writer John Graber at: (419) 427-8417 johngraber@thecourier.com

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HPD preparing for 2008 levy request

By JIM MAURER

Staff Writer

Hancock Park District officials are preparing now for next year's attempt at a replacement levy for park operations.

Scott Younger and Sharon Rooney were introduced as co-chairpersons of the 2008 Hancock Parks District levy campaign during the HPD board of commissioners regular meeting Tuesday.

The board is considering another 0.8-mill, 8-year levy, Brugeman said, which is the same size and length of the issue that expires at the end of next year. A resolution will be presented next month and approved in December, prior to a Dec. 20 filing deadline.

A replacement levy will likely be sought, instead of a renewal levy. The replacement levy provides funds based on current property values, while a renewal levy would be based on the property values in effect when the existing levy was approved in 2000.

The HPD will need the extra money from the replacement levy to offset the loss of other revenue. Net collection for the levy has been $1.15 million through Sept. 30. It is expected to generate about $1.21 million in 2008, but is estimated to collect $1.14 million in 2009. Those figures are based on the increase of property valuations since 2000, but also reflect the loss of tangible personal property tax revenue, which is being phased out by the state.

In connection with the levy request, park officials are putting together a long-range plan to cover the next eight years.

As part of the planning process, recommendations for Oakwoods Nature Preserve were presented to the HPD board Tuesday.

A 15-member focus group, which met last month to discuss the park, recommended that Oakwoods be maintained in its natural condition, the "Doc" Phillips Discovery Center located in the park needs to have better accessibility, and an additional parking lot be installed closer to the facility for handicapped users and to improve night-time safety.

HPD Director Tim Brugeman suggested a parking lot be built between the discovery center and Shank Lake to provide easier access to both sites.

As part of the planning effort, the board reviewed a preliminary list of repairs and replacements as well as park improvements and upgrades.

In addition to the improvements at Oakwoods, the list included such projects as replacing roofs, painting buildings, replacing some vehicles and adding a larger dump truck.

The plan will include no purchase of new land or parks, board Chairman Bill Miller emphasized, but rather maintenance of what already exists within the HPD system.

The board approved an environmental covenant, as recommended by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), for wetland mitigation projects at the Bright Farm property along the Blanchard River off Ohio 568. The agreement limits activities and use on 2.41-acre property.

It's the first such covenant HPD has approved, Brugeman said.

There are two wetland mitigation projects completed on the property, one funded by Procter & Gamble Co. and the other funded by Best Construction Co.

Limitations on the property include: no division or subdivision of the property; no commercial or industrial development on the site; no placement or construction of any "man-made modifications" including buildings, structures, fences, roads and parking lots "other than construction activities approved by OEPA as part of any mitigation plan; no tree cutting, ground cover or vegetation or use of pesticides or herbicides is allowed, "other than the removal or control of invasive and noxious species and control activities" that are authorized (by the mitigation plan) that's been approved by OEPA.

Also, there is no dumping of waste material at the site or changing the current natural course of the waterway, other than what has been approved as part of the mitigation plan.

Contact Staff Writer Jim Maurer at:

(419) 427-8420

jimmaurer@thecourier.com

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Homecoming begins Friday

The University of Findlay will celebrate Homecoming 2007: Celebrating the Past, Embracing the Future this weekend with a variety of activities.

Foremost on Friday will be the alumni recognition dinner at 7 p.m. in the Alumni Memorial Union. Distinguished alumni, members of the school's athletic hall of fame, past homecoming queens, and the Class of 1942 will be recognized.

Also on Friday, visiting scholar A.R. Charnes, a 1966 UF graduate, will speak about the need for values-driven marketplace executives as part of the College of Business Lecture Series.

At 8 p.m., Friday, a concert featuring Black Violin will be held at the Winebrenner Theological Seminary-TLB Convocation Center. Tickets for students, faculty and are free with valid UF identification. Tickets for alumni and community members are $5.

Festivities will kick off Saturday at 8:30 a.m. with a 5K and Little Oiler Fun Run beginning in the front of Old Main. Proceeds from the event will benefit Open Arms Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services. UF will partner with the A-T Cure Tour on race day. Runners may register the day of the race for $20.

For additional race information contact Beth Skulina, alumni and development coordinator at (419) 434-4517 or at skulina@findlay.edu.

The Alumni Association Annual Breakfast will begin at 8:30 a.m. and the hall of fame ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Nine alumni will be recognized and six Oiler athletes inducted.

From 11:30 to 2 p.m. Saturday, an Old Main front lawn celebration will feature a golf cart parade, UF choir alumni reunion, class reunions, KidsZone, Create-a-Cookie recipe contest and more.

Charles T. Fox Society 15th annual tree planting ceremony will also be held on the front lawn of Old Main at 1:30 p.m.

The Alumni Tailgate Party with faculty and staff will begin at 3 p.m. on the south lawn at Donnell Stadium.

Food from Tony's restaurant will be available before the game and during halftime.

The UF Homecoming queen and king candidates will be introduced during halftime of the Mercyhurst versus UF football game, where the queen and king will be announced.

Festivities will end on Sunday with an alumni art exhibit reception from 2-4 p.m. in the Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion, Dudley and Mary Lea Gallery, and a special service by the College First Church of God at Winebrenner Theological Seminary at 2:30 p.m.

For a complete list of UF homecoming events visit www.findlay.edu, keyword: homecoming.

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Nine UF alumni to be honored

Nine University of Findlay alumni will be honored during the Alumni Association Annual Breakfast to be held at 8:30 a.m. Saturday for homecoming weekend.

The 2007 distinguished alumni include Gladys Eakin, '33 of Pittsburgh, Pa.; George Tuttle, '36 of Trotwood; Joanne (Hamilton) and Josephe E. Rockwell, '51 of Newville, Pa.; James Taylor, '72 of Forest; and Jerome "Jerry" Kanney, '74 of Pikeville, Ky.

Also, the Gold Medallion Award (for lifetime achievement) will be presented to the late Richard J. Schaefer, '77; Candee Ellsworth, '97 of Toledo will receive the Old Main Award (recognizing the accomplishments of those 35 or younger); and the Arch Award (honoring staff member service) will be given to Dwight Moody, of Findlay.

Eakin graduated with a bachelor's degree in education from UF and earned a master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh. She began her teaching career in 1933 in a one-room school in Indian Head, Pa., retiring in 1972 from the Bethel Park School District near Pittsburgh.

Tuttle graduated with a bachelor's degree in education and started his teaching career in Vanlue. He earned a master's degree from Ohio State University, and as a teacher at Fairmont High School, was involved in creating materials to teach "new math." He served on the Ohio Education Association's executive board and chaired the Western Ohio Teachers Association before retiring in 1974.

The Rockwells were also influential educators. Joanne Rockwell held many roles in the Tuscarora School District in Mercersburg, Pa. and earned a master's degree in 1976 from Shippensburg State University. Joseph joined the U.S. Army after college and returned to earn a master's degree at Columbia University. He retired from teaching in Washington County, Md. in 1982, having also served in various positions, including as adjunct professor at Shippensburg State University.

Taylor began his teaching career at Hardin Northern High School in Dola, moved to Riverdale High School in Mount Blanchard in 1979 and retired from there in 2002. As a varsity football coach, freshman basketball coach and history of government teacher, he was honored with many awards for both his dedication and success on the field as well as in the classroom. In 1982 he earned his master's degree from the University of Dayton.

Kanney is general partner of Interstate Natural Gas Co. (ING); owner of Jermone A. Kanney CPA, PSC); and president of Crossrock Inc. He was named Rotarian of the Year in Pikeville, Ky. in 2002.

Schaefer worked at Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and was active within Findlay, serving in groups like the Findlay Optimist Club, Hancock Leadership Alumni Association and with the Hancock County Red Cross as a volunteer for both the local and national disaster relief teams. He also served on the American Cancer Society's board of directors.

Ellsworth is a conservation biologist with the Toledo Zoological Society where she is the butterfly conservation coordinator, leading a team in the captive rearing and reintroduction of the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly. She is also a conservation research technician for the society, recording behavioral data for a study on gorillas and completing field research for the U.S. Virgin Islands boa, the Mona Island boa and the Cuban boa.

In 2003 Ellsworth received the North American Conservation Award from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association and she is a founding member of the Butterfly Conservation Initiative.

Moody began his career at Findlay College in 1974 as an associate professor of education and was promoted to biology professor in 1981.

He has received two National Science Foundation grant awards, the UF Founders Faculty Award for Academic Excellence and others. Since 1998, he has studied mitigation and macroinvertebrates in the wetlands of Northwest Ohio. He has performed wetland mitigation evaluation with the Army Corps of Engineers in the Hancock Park District.

Moody holds a doctorate in education from the University of Toledo, a master's and bachelor's degree in biology from Chadron State College and an associate's degree in liberal arts from Nebraska Western College.

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Suspected rapist found competent

A man who was linked to a series of area burglaries and rapes, stretching back 12 years, has been found competent to stand trial.

Hancock County Common Pleas Court Judge Joseph Niemeyer on Tuesday scheduled a Dec. 10 trial for Charles H. Artressia, after ruling the defendant was competent.

The ruling was made based on a recent evaluation conducted at the Court Diagnostic Treatment Center in Toledo.

Hancock County Public Defender Michael Galose had asked for the evaluation, saying his client has a mental health history and is currently undergoing mental health counseling.

However, the examination determined that Artressia understood the nature of the charges against him and could assist his attorney in his defense.

Artressia, 48, was indicted in July on three counts of burglary, each a first-degree felony, and one count of rape, also a first-degree felony.

The charges were filed in connection with a December 2004 break-in at a North Cory Street residence and the sexual assault of a 23-year-old woman who lived there.

The two other burglary charges stemmed from break-ins that occurred on Park Street in April 2005 and on North Cory Street on June 2005.

Authorities have also linked the defendant to a burglary and rape of an Upper Sandusky woman in August 1995. Prosecution of that case will take place in Wyandot County.

All of the crimes remained unsolved until this summer, when city police determined that a pair of eyeglasses that belonged to Artressia had been left at one of the Findlay crime scenes.

Police also have said that Artressia’s DNA matches DNA found at the various crime scenes.

Artressia, who is currently being held in the Hancock County jail on $1 million bond, has pleaded innocent to the charges.

He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

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County grand jury indicts 9

By J. STEVEN DILLON

STAFF WRITER

A man has been indicted in connection with an assault of a local woman in Findlay last month.

Trey A. Iliff, 24, address unknown, was charged with felonious assault, a second-degree felony, in connection with a Sept. 29 incident. He is alleged to have caused serious physical harm to a woman at her Longmeadow Lane residence.

City police reported that Iliff punched the woman after she approached him when she found him asleep on her porch swing and asked him to leave.

The woman required medical treatment for facial injuries.

Eight other people also were indicted Tuesday, including two men who face fourth-degree felony domestic violence charges.

Scott L. Moyers, 24, 425½ Walnut St., is charged with causing physical harm to a young female family member on Sept. 26, while Donald L. Simon II, 41, address unknown, is alleged to have harmed an adult female family member on Oct. 5.

In each case, the defendant has been previously convicted of domestic violence, which makes the current charge a felony.

Three other people were indicted for failure to appear, a fourth-degree felony.

Lisa K. Norway, 36, 404 N. Cory St., and Crystal R. Bickley, 25, 231 E. Foulke Ave., were both named in single-count indictments. Norway is accused of failing to show up for an Oct. 3 court hearing in a criminal case, while Bickley, according to her indictment, was a no-show for an Aug. 8 hearing in a pending criminal matter.

Keith S. Hartfield, 35, of Fostoria, was charged with two counts of failing to appear, for allegedly not showing up for hearings in two different criminal cases on Aug. 9.

Meanwhile, fifth-degree felony charges were lodged against three other people.

Dianne L. Kirchner, 39, 218 Lester Ave., and Melissa A. Myers, 23, of Waynesfield, were both charged with theft.

Kirchner is accused of stealing between $500 and $5,000 cash from the Hancock County Agency on Aging between Feb. 7-June 27. Kirchner was employed at the agency at the time of the theft.

Myers' indictment alleges she took between $500 and $5,000 cash from Maurice's, 1800 Tiffin Ave., between Sept. 7-26 in Findlay. Myers was a store manager when the theft occurred.

In both cases, the amount of cash taken exceeded $500, which raised the severity of the charges to a felony.

William C. Boggs Jr., 36, currently an inmate at the Hancock County jail, was charged with escape. Boggs is charged with failing to return to the Rehabilitation and Opportunity Center on Oct. 2.

All of those indicted Tuesday are scheduled to be arraigned next Wednesday.

Contact Staff Writer Steve Dillon at:

(419) 427-8423

stevedillon@thecourier.com

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Public Record

Docket

The following incidents were reported to the Findlay Police Department and the Hancock County Sheriff's Office:

Police Department

A stereo was stolen Monday from a van at 1017 Brenda Court.

A Findlay man said Monday that someone used his personal identity to open a credit card account and rack up $4,000 in expenses.

Domestic disturbances were investigated during recent days in locations on Woodridge Crescent, Liberty Street and Tiffin Avenue.

A child, age 8, was taken to Blanchard Valley Hospital on Monday after being bitten in the face by a pit bull, after the youth climbed a fence to look into a back yard at 552 W. Lincoln St.

Bicycles were taken recently from 421 Oakland Ave. and 918 Fox St.

Playstation equipment and sodas were swiped from a garage at 145 Allen Ave. on Monday.

A window was broken at 314 Taylor St. on Monday.

Two inebriated men, tossed out of a bar, were charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest Monday in a parking lot at 335 Walnut St. One person broke the taillight of a Buick.

Sheriff's Office

A child clad in a diaper was found wandering by a roadside near his home in the 3800 block of County Road 220 on Thursday.

A burglary was reported Monday at 8169 Maplewood Drive.

Anyone with information about a crime can call Findlay/Hancock County Crimestoppers

between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays at (419) 425-TIPS, or visit the Web at www.

HancockCrimeStoppers.org.

Callers may remain anonymous.

Courthouse

Common Pleas Court

The following activity took place in Hancock County Common Pleas Court:

Timothy C. Mompher, 24, of McComb, was convicted of trafficking in marijuana, a fifth-degree felony, by Judge Reg Routson, who ordered a pre-sentence investigation. Mompher had been indicted for selling less than 200 grams of pot on Dec. 20 in Findlay.

Leonard C. Loomis, 26, of Warsaw, Ind., was ordered by Judge Routson to serve a previously suspended nine-month prison term for violating his community control sanctions (CCS) on a fifth-degree felony drug conviction. Loomis had been placed on CCS in April 2005 after being found guilty of being in possession of less than a gram of crack cocaine in Bluffton on Sept. 18, 2004. He violated his sanctions when he left the area without notifying his probation officer.

John P. Thomas, 23, of North Olmsted, was ordered by Judge Routson to serve a previously suspended two-year prison term for violating his CCS on a third-degree felony drug conviction. Thomas had been placed on CCS for five years in January 2006 in connection with a Sept. 16, 2005 incident in which he was found in possession of Ecstasy at the Ripplefest in Bluffton. The suspended prison term was re-imposed because Thomas moved without notifying his probation officer and because of recent drug charges being filed against him in Vinton County.

Andrew S. Parish, 22, of Canton, was ordered by Judge Routson to serve a previously suspended six-month prison term for violating his CCS on a fourth-degree felony conviction for carrying concealed weapons. Parish had been placed on CCS in June after admitting to being in possession of a concealed handgun when he was pulled over by the state patrol in Jackson Township on Dec. 19. The defendant was ordered to serve the prison term after he was found to have been convicted of drug charges in Stark County. The local sentence was ordered served consecutively with a 12-month term Parish received from Stark County.

Marriage Licenses

Christopher J. Connors, 640 Clinton Court, factory worker, to Gayle L. Fant, 640 Clinton Court.

Real Estate Transfers

Findlay Brethren Church to Joseph and E. Jack Frost, Section 2, 5.323 acres, Delaware Township.

James McClanahan to Alice Frances Winifred McClanahan, Lot 9, Fair Park Addition, Findlay.

Petti LLC and Michele T. Hensel to Petti Construction Co., Unit 26, Villas at Burberry Condo, Findlay.

Petti Construction Co. to Thomas H. and N. Jane Wittenmyer, Unit 26, Villas at Burberry Condo, Findlay.

Staschiak Rentals, James D. and Janet E. Staschiak to Jeffery D. Staschiak and Dawn C. Wagner, Lot 6, Corys Briggs Avenue Addition, Findlay.

David, Linda, James A. and Chrislyn G. Chrisman to James A. Moser, Section 4, 2 acres, Orange Township.

Bank of New York Trust Co. to Jonathon D. and Yadira Nye, Lots 23-24, Arcadia Original Plat, Arcadia.

Genesis II, Harold C. and Janet A. Baldauf to Heather J. May, Section 10, 8.209 acres, Pleasant Township.

Robin L. Bauer to Robert F. Bauer, Section 7, 1.1667 acres, Van Buren Township.

Fire Calls

Monday

4:18 p.m., 800 W. Trenton Ave., vehicle accident.

Tuesday

7:46 a.m., 15031 E. U.S. 224, excessive heat.

9:40 a.m., 146 E. Edgar Ave., EMS call.

1:39 p.m., 845 E. Sandusky St., alarm malfunction.

1:53 p.m., Interstate 75, smoke scare.

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Beloved clown made his final home in Findlay

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yesterday, The Courier published a story about a local magic club, with comments by club member Paul Ricksecker. But before Ricksecker became interested in magic, he had made a reputation for himself as Hoby the Clown. Ricksecker credits Zeke Lamont, who may have been the original Bozo the Clown, with giving him his start in clowning.

By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF

Staff Writer

Mention the name, "Bozo the Clown," and most people think of the TV clown with white face makeup, a red nose and tufts of red hair who ruled children's programming from 1949 to the 80s.

Few know, however, that another Bozo the Clown — possibly one of the first circus Bozos — made his home in Findlay for roughly 30 years.

Bozo, who went by the name Zeke Lamont in his professional life, was really Herbert Louis Shellhammer, a native of St. Louis, Mo. who spent three years in the Army during World War I.

His real love was being a clown, according to Paul Ricksecker, of Findlay, who later became a clown named Hoby Tyler — thanks to Zeke.

"My brother and I met him in 1958 and he got us started in the clown business. Since then I have played a clown/magician all over the world," said Ricksecker.

Zeke got his start in the circus in 1914 when he was about 18. He spent the next 40-plus years working as Bozo with the Barnum and Bailey Circus, L.G. Barnes Circus, Sparks Circus, James M. Cole Circus and Lewis Brothers Circus. In addition to performing as a clown, Zeke was also a radio star called "Grandpappy Spears" on Cincinnati station WLW.

"He wouldn't talk about his early years," said Ricksecker.

In a 1972 Republican-Courier article, Zeke told columnist Margaret "Peg" Dennis that, as a boy, he dreamed of running away from home and joining the circus. One day, when a circus came to St. Louis, Zeke joined.

His first job was washing dishes in the cook house, but he knew he could do better. He started watching the clowns and eventually developed his own clown persona — Bozo.

Zeke described his clown costume to Dennis: "I decided on using red, white and blue makeup. I made a great big mouth turned up at the ends ... I think my type was called 'Grotesque.' I wore a big red ball on the end of my nose, sometimes with a fake diamond in it. Frequently the ball would fall off and that would give me an extra laugh."

He also wore white gloves with red fingernails painted on them.

"He always claimed he invented that," said Ricksecker. "He was kind of proud that was his clown gag."

Zeke arrived in Findlay in the 1950s. At the time, George Lytle leased Riverside Park where he offered visitors a variety of rides and concessions ranging from the merry-go-round to a taffy pull.

Lytle also hired acts to perform. One of them was Barton's Trick Horse Show. Zeke was traveling with the couple.

"Zeke would have been in his early 60s, but his health was much, much older," said Ricksecker. "One time he told me he blamed his health on circus food."

At that time, there weren't any regulations governing circus mess halls, and they didn't rinse the dishes after washing them. Zeke attributed his physical ailments to years of eating strong detergent soap off the dishes, said Ricksecker.

"His eyes were bad enough he couldn't drive any more. His voice was very weak, and he couldn't get around too well," he said. "He had no employment at all, no circus wanted to hire him. He was traveling with Bartons because they were friends."

Lytle hired Zeke to appear at the park. And later, Findlay Mayor William Carlin offered him a job as a maintenance man at the Carlin Block on South Main Street.

"He was by no means an electrician or a carpenter, but he emptied the trash and answered questions for people and this kind of stuff," said Ricksecker.

Zeke had a one-room apartment on the second floor of the Carlin Block.

"I think it was a little bit of charity on the mayor's part," Ricksecker said. "Zeke lived there and he would do an occasional show."

Ricksecker was in his early 20s when he met Zeke in 1958. He and his younger brother, Jim, were manning a union booth at the Hancock County Fair.

"We wanted to be able to get families over to our booth," Ricksecker recalled. "Someone said, maybe we can have a couple of guys dress up as clowns.

Although they weren't interested in being clowns, the brothers agreed.

"We put the makeup on for the first time, not knowing what we were doing. This was just going to be a one-shot deal. We weren't interested in doing it any more," said Ricksecker.

Then Zeke walked by and stopped to talk.

"He was such a nice guy," Ricksecker said. "We started visiting him up at the Carlin Block, not because he was a clown, because he was a nice old guy. We became friends. He started showing us stuff, and he got us interested."

The Ricksecker brothers began doing events like birthday parties and lodge shows with Zeke, who gave them their clown names — Hoby and Toby Tyler.

"He had no income at all. It was whatever he could do," said Ricksecker. "He would fix a radio once in awhile for somebody. And we know one time he was living on peanut butter, bread and coffee, that was it."

Although several clowns claimed the name, Zeke told Findlay residents that he was the original Bozo.

"At one time, and of course he didn't have any money, he said that he thought he'd get some old posters advertising him back in the '20s or '30s and show that he was the first Bozo and sue them (the television Bozo)," said Ricksecker. "It was kind of a generic name anyway, but he always claimed he was the first one. And he probably was because he was Bozo before there was TV ... he was proud of that."

According to the Republican-Courier, Zeke's last parade performance was the Findlay Sesquicentennial parade in 1962.

"I don't think that's so. I think he did some Halloween parades after that," said Ricksecker, who recalled seeing him marching with the Findlay High School band.

"All at once the band started double timing to the music, and Zeke was double timing right in front of them. Plus he'd go over to this side and kick his feet, go over to this side and work the crowd, go over to this side of the street and work the crowd, clear down Findlay's Main Street," Ricksecker said.

"The next Sunday I went down to pick him up. He had lunch with me once in awhile at my house. And I had to stand there and wait and wait while he hobbled down the steps with his cane and shuffled his feet and hobbled to get in the car, just a few days later," he laughed.

Zeke eventually got to the point where he couldn't do shows at all. Ricksecker said he became senile and spent the last nine years of his life at the Hancock County Home.

"While he was still living, we (he and his brother) went out to the county home to do a freebie for them. They brought Zeke in and sat him in the front row, even though we figured Zeke wouldn't know what was really going on anyway. But the thing they wanted the other people to know, and they announced it, was that we were clowns who got started because of Zeke," said Ricksecker.

"We were going to do old classic circus routines for them, and these were all routines that Zeke taught us. As we were doing these routines, everyone of them, we looked down at Zeke and there he was mouthing all the words through every routine we did. So they were still on his mind," he said.

Zeke died of pneumonia in 1981 at the age of 84.

"At his funeral, there weren't enough people there to be pallbearers," Ricksecker remembered. "Zeke didn't have any family. To my knowledge, he'd never really been married. He'd never had children, and he never mentioned brothers or sisters."

Since Zeke was a veteran, a call was made to the American Legion, and several members volunteered to help at the funeral.

Ricksecker stayed in Findlay, where he worked until his retirement as an industrial engineer for Whirlpool. Jim Ricksecker eventually moved to Marion and the brothers started doing single acts.

"I never really branched out to be a good clown until I branched out on my own," Ricksecker said.

"Zeke loved the clown business. He loved telling people about it, and he loved making people laugh," Ricksecker added. "I think his whole life, the only thing he got out of it was when he was making people laugh because I think his personal life was garbage. He never had a family so he never had anything to go home to, living in circus trucks, eating circus food, soap and all. But he loved being a clown."

Contact staff writer Jeannie Wiley Wolf at:

(419) 427-8419

jeanniewolf@thecourier.com

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