The WWII generation is often referred to as the Greatest Generation and I certainly believe that to be true. Those from that generation were smart, hard-working, good, brave, patriotic citizens who put their love of country and freedom before themselves. They served their country unselfishly. Actually, those qualities can be attributed to all veterans who have served this country from our nation’s beginning through the current time. It is what soldiers do. And we truly appreciate it.
I featured The Otterbein Sixteen, a poem by C. Dillon Sell, in last Friday’s blog post for Veterans Day, One Day in My Life-A Story of WWII, by Paul & Lowell Sell. The poem was written about 16 young men from Otterbein United Brethren Church, Rockford, who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII and, by the grace of God, all sixteen safely came back home.
The Otterbein Sixteen were: Clifford Beougher, Charles Berry, Ned Berry, Bill Book, Rea Book, Russell Book, Albert Clutter, Lowell Deitsch, Jacob Koeppel, Harold Leighner, Carl Sell, Leroy Sell, Lowell Sell, Paul Sell, Henry Warthman, and Bud Williams.
After reading Sell’s poem I wanted to learn a little more about the sixteen men who attended church together and who all fought in WWII.
I found additional information about all of them, more information on some than others. They had families but I did not include the names of their children. The Otterbein Sixteen were about my father’s age and their children are my contemporaries. I even went to school with a couple of their children. Most of the Sixteen stayed in the area, but some moved farther away.
I knew one of the Otterbein Sixteen. Henry Warthman was one of my school bus drivers at Parkway Local School, one of my favorite bus drivers.
“Henry” James Warthman (1925-1977) was born in Mercer County 9 October 1925, the son of Carl and Martha (Hansel) Warthman. He married Margaret L. Gilson (1927-2001) on 5 May 1946 in Mercer County. He worked at Goodyear Tire & Rubber, St. Marys, and drove school bus at Parkway. Henry died 4 April 1977 and is buried at Friends Cemetery, SR 118 & Tama Road. Henry Warthman served in the U.S. Navy.
Henry Warthman’s sister Virginia Rose married another one of the Otterbein Sixteen, Ned Edwin Berry. Ned and his brother Charles Jr. were among the Otterbein Sixteen:
“Ned” Edwin Berry (1924-1990) was born in or near Rockford on 27 December 1924, the son of Charles F. and Alma D. (Yahn) Berry. He married Virginia Rose Warthman (1928-2006) on 30 June 1946 in Mercer County. He worked at Goodyear Tire & Rubber, St. Marys, and was still a member of Otterbein UB church when he died 14 June 1990. He is buried at Mercer Memory Gardens, Celina. Ned Berry served in the U.S. Navy.
“Charles” Floyd Berry Jr (1922-2001) was born in Dublin Township on 4 August 1922, the son of Charles F. and Alma D. (Yahn) Berry. He married Lois Ann Rutledge (1926-2001) on 22 August 1945 in Mercer County. Charles was a farmer and drove truck for the Rockford Stone Quarry. He was a member of New Horizons Church when he died 29 June 2001 and is buried at Stringtown Cemetery. Charles Berry Jr served in the U.S. Navy.
Two sets of three brothers were among the Otterbein Sixteen, the Book brothers and the Sell brothers.
3 Book Brothers:
Theodore “Russell” Book (1916-2003) was born 13 June 1916 in Vinton County, Ohio, the son of John “Asa” Logan and Martha Luella “Lula” (Raver) Book. He married Barbara Inez Kidd (1917-1997) on 3 March 1946 in Van Wert County. He worked at Continental Can, Van Wert, and was a farmer. Russell died in Rockford on 13 April 2003 and is buried at Greenbriar Cemetery, Glenmore, Van Wert County. Russell Book served in the U.S. Army.
“Rea” Pershing Book (1918-2009) was born in Mercer County 9 July 1918, the son of John “Asa” Logan and Martha Luella “Lula” (Raver) Book. He married Mary Akom (1919-1978) on 25 May 1941 in Van Wert County, and after Mary’s death married Fern Edith (Redlinger) Debolt (1920-2013) on 11 August 1979 in Van Wert County. Rea Book was a United Methodist minister. He died in Van Wert County on 12 September 2009 and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Ohio City. Rea Book served in the U.S. Army.
William Gene “Bill” Book (1924-2006) was born in or near Rockford on 27 October 1924, the son of John “Asa” Logan & Martha Luella “Lula” (Raver) Book. He married Crystal “June” Hurless (1926-1985) on 12 May 1945 in Van Wert County, and after her death he married Edna Marie Herberger on 14 May 1989. He worked at Gray Printing, Fostoria, Ohio. Bill died 8 April 2006 at Ohio City and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Ohio City. Bill Book served in the U.S. Navy.
3 Sell brothers:
“Carl” Andrew Sell (1917-2003) was born in Dublin Township on 11 August 1917, the son of Samuel Oliver and Zelma (Boice) Sell. He married Martha Ann Akom (1919-1950) on 3 May 1942, and after Martha’s death he married Pauline Book (1931-2022) on 6 June 1951 in Mercer County. Pauline Book was a sister to the three Book brothers, members of the Otterbein Sixteen. Carl was a shop foreman, mechanic, and salesman for Ford Motor Tractor and Implement Division, owned and operated Farm Equipment Dealership, managed Ridgeway Motel in Van Wert and Western 6 Motel in Tempe, Arizona, and farmed. He died 1 May 2003 and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Ohio City. Carl Sell served in the U.S. Army.
“Lowell” D. Sell (1923-2011) was born 20 February 1923, the son of Samuel Oliver and Zelma (Boice) Sell. He married Martha R. Cotton (1930-2008) on 6 November 1949 in Franklin County, Ohio. He was a farmer, mechanic, part owner of Sell’s Ford Tractor Sales, and worked at Speicher Corp, Celina. Lowell died 15 March 2011 in Wapakoneta, Ohio, and is buried at Stringtown Cemetery, Rockford. Lowell Sell served in the U.S. Army.
“Paul” Ivan Sell (1926-2014) was born 29 October 1926 in Dublin Township, the son of Samuel Oliver and Zelma (Boice) Sell. He married Elizabeth/Betty Ann Kelly (1932-2007) on 28 September 1952 in Allen County, Indiana. He sold life insurance and was a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. Paul died 3 February 2014 in Shelby County, Indiana, and is buried at Oak Lawn Cemetery, Ossian, Wells County, Indiana. Paul Sell served in the U.S. Navy.
Another Sell, a first cousin to the above 3 Sell brothers:
Otis “Leroy” Sell (1916-1968) was born 28 February 1916, the son of Charles Dillon and Mary Katharine (Rettic) Sell. He married Mary R. Hynes (1906-1986), an immigrant from Northern Ireland. He moved to Arizona shortly after the war and was a heavy equipment operator for Fisher Contracting Co. and Benson Contracting Co. Leroy died 1 July 1968 in Maricopa County, Arizona, from heat prostration in the desert after his vehicle broke down. He is buried at Saint Francis Catholic Cemetery, Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona. Leroy Sell served as a Tech5 298th General Hospital, U.S. Army.
“Clifford” Wilmer Beougher (1922-2007) was born in Mercer County 26 May 1922, the son of William D. and Bessie (White) Beougher. He married Marcile A. Krugh (1924-2009) on 22 July 1943 in Wooster, Ohio. He worked at the Huffy Corporation and Midwestern United Life Company. Clifford died 3 July 2007 in St. Marys and is buried at Elm Grove Cemetery, St. Marys. Clifford Beougher served in the U.S. Army.
Samuel “Albert” Clutter Jr (1921-1995) was born in or near Rockford on 21 July 1921, the son of Samuel and Lela May (McClintock) Clutter. He married Betty Eileen Long (1926-) on 5 July 1980 in Tennessee. Albert was a railroad employee and died 21 November 1995 in Osceola, Florida, burial details unknown. I could not find information concerning his military service.
“Jacob” F Koeppel Sr (1919-1996) was born in Dublin Township on 23 May 1919, the son of Adam W. and Sarah J. (Ford) Koeppel. He married Dorothy G. Chaney (1919-1984) on 30 May 1937 in Willshire. He was employed by GTE’s accounting division. Jacob died 5 Jul 1996 in Marion County, Ohio, and is buried in Grand Prairie Cemetery, Marion County. Jacob Koeppel Sr served in the U.S. Navy.
“Harold” Rufus Leighner (1921-1951) was born in Branch County, Michigan, 23 December 1921, the son of Harry Oliver and Mary E. (Applegate) Leighner. He married Ruthilene Wert (2023-2020) on 14 February 1942 in Mercer County. Harold Leighner died 31 August 1951 as the result of a farming accident and is buried at Woodland Union Cemetery, Van Wert. Harold Leighner served in the U.S. Army.
Kenneth “Lowell” Deitsch (1927-2018) was born 9 March 1927 in or near Rockford, the son of Ben J. and Mary Electa (Eichenauer) Deitsch. He married Marilyn Irene Cotton (1934-) about 1954. He worked at Honda Power Equipment. He died 17 June 2018 in Manatee County, Florida, and is buried at Gwinnett Memorial Park, Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, Georgia. Lowell Deitsch served in the U.S. Navy.
“Bud” Earl Williams (1925-1996) was born in or near Rockford on 14 February 1925, the son of Oscar W. and Ida (Dull) Williams. He married Phyllis Jane Hiles (1924-2002) on 15 August 1943 in Mercer County. He was a farmer, mowed grass for the Anthony Wayne Boy Scout Camp, Pleasant Lake, Indiana, and worked for Snell Groves, New Port Richey, Florida. He died 21 December 1996 in Florida and is buried in the Florida National Cemetery, Bushnell, Florida. Bud Williams served in the U.S. Army.
Otterbein United Brethren in Christ Church, aka Stringtown United Brethren Church, was located on State Route 707, about half a mile east of State Route 118, south of Rockford. It was organized in 1841 and some of the first members were Koeppels and Custers, likely ancestors of some of the Otterbein Sixteen. Otterbein UB was originally called Stringtown United Brethren Church and the cemetery next to the church is still called Stringtown Cemetery. Otterbein UB and Calvary UB merged in 1993 and, after a 1999 fire, in 2000 the congregation built a new church in Rockford and changed the name to New Horizons Community Church. Another group, called the Christian Church, repaired and used the Otterbein UB building on 707 for a few years, but sold it to St. Teresa Catholic Church in December 2008.