Numerous Darke County notables die in 2015


DARKE COUNTY — This region lost quite a number of people, from veterans and businesspeople to other prominent figures who helped make Darke County what it is, in 2015.

In the local sports world, Earl Baltes, 83, of New Weston died March 23. He was the well-known racing promoter for more than 50 years, having started Eldora Speedway north of Rossburg as well as a few others around Ohio and Indiana. He was inducted into several race-related hall of fames and was named Auto Racing Promoter of the Year in 1993 and Charlotte Motor Speedway Promoter of the Year in 2001. He now has a highway named after him on State Route 118, stretching from Ansonia to the south and St. Henry to the north. At one time, he had also had his own orchestra entertaining at several nightclubs near and far.

Francis “Frank” Bulcher 97, of Versailles died Christmas Day. He was a veteran and self-employed mason and plasterer. He is the one who made the frames for flags that were given to families at funerals.

Tom Dorris, another veteran and a former Greenville resident for many years, died Dec. 11 at the age of 98. He was an agricultural engineer for many years and was instrumental in introducing the use of anhydrous ammonia to the midwestern United States.

Jean Stover, 95, of Versailles, died Dec. 4. She started hairstyling businesses in both Versailles and Greenville and was proud to be part of the local business community.

Duane Saintignon, 73, of Union City, Ohio, died Oct. 30. He was a farmer, and entrepreneur, having owned multiple businesses, including the Whistle Stop in Ansonia, Cole’s Front Street Inn in Greenville and Bartonia Restaurant in Bartonia, Indiana, and D’s Restaurant in Union City Indiana.

Virgil “Max” Shoemaker of Greenville, who retired as general manager of Greenville Manufacturing, a division of American Aggregates Corp., died Sept. 19 at the age of 92. He was heavily involved in the community and headed the YMCA building fund drive.

C. LeRoy Lennen, 83, of Greenville died June 13. He was a certified public accountant and former managing partner of William S. Fry & Co. and Lennen & Fry, in addition to being a former member of the Greenville Board of Education.

Martha Gade, 90, of Greenville owned and operated Gade Nursing Home in Greenville for many years. She died May 21.

Philip Saylor, owner of Sanco Products Co. Inc., died Dec. 22 at the age of 76; Fred Condon, 78, of Versailles, owner of Edwin F. Nickol Monuments Inc. in Versailles, died May 21;

Dr. Thomas Chase died March 23. He had a medical practice in Ansonia for awhile. He had lived in Maine at the time of his death.

Robert J. “Gus” Barga, 90, of Versailles, died March 9. He was a long-time volunteer fireman and owned the Versailles Oil and Gas Co. business, where many people gathered to chat or get the latest news. His wife, Norma, 87, died 13 days later. She was vice president of the family business and a longtime volunteer member of Versailles Emergency Medical Services. The Bargas were the Poultry Days’ honorary parade marshals in 2005.

Jim Phelan, another Versailles businessman, died Feb. 24 at the age of 73. He began his career with the Phelan Insurance Agency in 1962. He was the 1970 chairman of Versailles Poultry Days and the festival’s honorary parade marshal in 2013. He also was a co-founder of the area Jaycees, and, in 2008, he was named Citizen of the year by the Versailles Area Chamber of Commerce.

The public service arena was even struck with sadness when Mark Dotson, 61, of Greenville, passed on June 17. He was a 38-year employee and assistant chief with the Greenville Township Rescue Squad, was secretary-treasurer of the Darke County EMS and was a member of the Darke County Haz-Mat Team as well as being an educator.

Dale Rismiller of Greenville, owner of Rismiller and Son Construction Co., died May 26. Also active in the community, he was 87.

Insurance agent Wayne Coblentz, 91, of Greenville, died Jan. 3. A veteran, he was also an outdoorsman and was active in the community.

Maryalice Brewer, 81, of Palestine died May 4. In addition to having worked at Fram, she was clerk of Liberty Township for more than 30 years and was secretary of the Darke County Township Association.

Dale Riffle died Nov. 29 at the age of 87. He was a retired postal carrier, was founder of the Ansonia Swinging 8’s Square Dance Club and was a square dance caller for 30 years. He was also inducted into the Square Dance Hall of Fame and was named a Kentucky Colonel.

Miriam “Mickey” Lockman, 87, of Arcanum, died Sept. 6. She taught physical education at the Springfield YMCA and at Monroe, Franklin-Monroe and Arcanum-Butler schools for 20 years in addition to being the Arcanum Elementary School secretary for 11 years. She was an advocate for women’s intramural and interscholastic sports, was Arcanum High School’s Teacher of the Year in 1973 and was inducted into the Hall of Honor at Wittenberg in 1992 and the Arcanum High School Athletic Hall of Fame. She was also known for promoting Ohio and national Senior Olympics and for having served on the Senior Olympic Board of Dayton.

David Feltman of Greenville, who died Aug. 29 at the age of 80, had worked for American Aggregates Corp., was director of human resources for the Brethren Retirement Community and served on various boards in the county.

Rosella Shepherd Hill 68 when she died July 11. The Greenville woman was retired from the Darke County Sheriff’s office where she worked as a corrections officer then later was a cafeteria worker for Greenville City Schools. She was also active in the Ladies of the Moose in Greenville.

Nihla George Davis, 92, of North Star died Jan. 27. She had been clerk of the North Star village for 60 years, and had also served on the Ansonia Rescue and was a member of the North Star American Legion Auxiliary for 67 years.

Jean Bell of Greenville died March 27 at the age of 87. She was recognized nationally for her expertise in creating miniature quilts and was featured in articles in various magazines. Private collectors from the United States, Germany, Japan and Australia commissioned her to create quilts and wall hangings for their collections, and her quilts are in the permanent collections of The Wyckoff House Museum in Brooklyn, New York, and Garst Museum in Greenville.

Among those associated with The Daily Advocate who passed this past year were Don McDermott, Jane Karr and John Wehr. McDermott, 77, died May 9, and had been sportswriter and managing editor of The Daily Advocate during his tenure. Karr, 82, died March 7, and had worked in advertising with the newspaper, while Wehr, 80, who was a photographer, died Oct. 8.

By Linda Moody

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Linda Moody may be reached at 937-569-4315. Follow her on Facebook and join the conversation and get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to

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