By Margie Wuebker
Charles W. Beougher died Thursday afternoon doing what he enjoyed -- farming the Dublin Township fields he had owned for more than 50 years.
Beougher had finished the last wheat field and was driving the big Massey-Ferguson combine home when he apparently became ill. The combine went into a ditch along Herman Road and the 81-year-old farmer managed to hit the kill switch before collapsing across the steering wheel.
Rescue squad personnel and firefighters from Rockford rushed to the scene with lights flashing and sirens wailing.
The 6-foot, 3-inch farmer, who family members say loved people and never met a stranger, was pronounced dead a short time later at Van Wert County Hospital.
"Dad was so proud of this year's wheat crop," daughter Linda Rutledge told The Daily Standard this morning. "He claimed it was the best crop he ever had." Harvest time usually brings family and friends to help with the chores; Thursday was no exception. Grandson Josh Routt and his wife Niki came to run the combine or ferry wagons heavily laden with amber grain from field to elevator.
Beougher reportedly had a flat tire while returning to the field with a hopper wagon. He asked Routt to repair the damage while he took the combine to the neat-as-a-pin homeplace on Ohio 707.
"Niki brought along a video camera and we have wonderful footage of Dad telling Josh how to fix the tire," Rutledge said in a voice choked with emotion. "Josh knows how to change a tire but Dad felt the need to tell him anyway."
The Routts noticed the combine in the ditch upon returning 20 minutes later and went to investigate. They immediately called 911 and Niki Routt went to get Romola "Molly" Beougher, the farmer's wife of 571ò2 years.
"Charlie loved farming and he was already planning next year's crops," Molly Beougher said amid tears. "He died doing what he loved and that gives us comfort."
Lt. John Schumm, a paramedic with the Celina Fire Department was returning from Fort Wayne, Ind., when he heard a radio transmission about a squad bound for Van Wert on a hot run in need of a paramedic. He quickly pulled over and radioed the ambulance to pick him up en route.
Schumm did not know the identity of the patient. The ambulance door opened and he bounded inside to discover the man on the stretcher was his wife's grandfather.
Beougher, who had suffered a slight stroke this spring, seemed fine earlier in the day. He went to the Motor Inn for a quick lunch, sitting at the big round table where farmers routinely gather to discuss crops and solve problems plaguing world leaders.
"He probably checked out all the fields coming and going," his wife added. "He didn't miss much if it pertained to farming."
Beougher had retired recently from Celina Moving and Warehouse, where he drove for Atlas Van Lines for more than four decades. He held the distinction of being the oldest active registered driver for the moving company at the time.
"He made his last trip to Florida in the spring," Rutledge said. "He helped a lot of military families move from one assignment to another. Generals would ask for him by name."
Beougher understood the hardships they endured while in service to their country. He, too, had been in the ranks serving with the 21st Marines, 3rd Marine Division in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.
"Dad was on board the transport carrier McKeown when it went down," Rutledge said. "The bridge was gone and it was breaking up. Beougher and a sailor were among the crew who clung to debris and treaded water overnight while awaiting a rescue ship.
Not long ago he learned one of his fellow Marines had died. The news left him unusually quiet, family members said.
"There aren't many of us left anymore," he told his wife.
Beougher always planted several rows of sweet corn in the field, with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren coming home to help prepare the crop for the freezer.
"It was a family tradition," Rutledge said. "This year he didn't plant any and that was strange but he never explained. Looking back, we wonder whether that was an omen of sorts."
Family and friends saddened by his loss will remember the big man with a ready smile as honest, generous and friendly to a fault. He was the first to respond to a call for help and the last to expect any kind of compensation.
"Dad was headed home Thursday," Rutledge said. "He didn't make it to the farmhouse; he went home to heaven."