‘Doc’ Householder, business and tourism leader, dies at 94
BARNESVILLE — Positivity and possibilities — those were the things that made “Doc” Householder a key player in the development and success of his community.
Ira Eugene “Doc” Householder, retired Belmont County Tourism executive director and a founder of the event that has become the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival, died Tuesday. He was 94.
In his nine-plus decades, all spent in the local area, he owned and operated multiple businesses in downtown Barnesville and spent 28 years promoting his beloved county as a tourist destination. For more than half a century he was a member of the Barnesville Area Chamber of Commerce and the village Kiwanis Club.
Roger Deal, Barnesville village administrator, worked closely with Householder on many projects throughout the years. He recalled warm memories of the man and said that “Doc” was “always positive” and believed that “everything was possible.”
“He had a huge influence on his community — and I’m not just talking about Barnesville, but Belmont County,” Deal said, noting that Householder’s stores were key elements of the business community in the village. “He was always so positive. You just felt good when you ran into Doc.”
Deal also pointed to the growth of the Pumpkin Festival and said Householder was largely responsible for what it has become. According to his obituary, Householder was present at the first Barnesville Fall Festival meeting and soon became president of the organization. That event, which began in the basement of Barnesville’s Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church, evolved to become one of the largest festivals in Ohio, annually attracting more than 100,000 people to the community.
“I don’t think he ever had a negative word to say … ,” Deal continued. “That is what made him so successful, and I think it radiated through all of us. It certainly had a huge influence on me.
“He wanted to root us all on. What an influence … and what a good man he was. He will be sadly missed.”
Ginny Favede, president of Wheeling University, was a Belmont County commissioner during some of Householder’s years with the tourism council. She recalled him fondly on Friday, conjuring up images of him wearing his ever-present suspenders and remembering how he and his late Ruth had adored one another.
“He was a remarkable human being,” Favede said. “I think he made you a better person just by knowing him.
“He was always so excited to share any good news about Belmont County,” she continued, remembering the regular updates he would provide for the board of commissioners. “He was so proud. He was always boasting about what was going on. And he loved the people of Barnesville.”
Favede said Householder knew Belmont County and its history better than anyone — and he taught that history to anyone in his vicinity.
“They don’t make men like Doc Householder anymore,” she added.
Barb Ballint worked with Householder, first as a tourism council board member and then as his assistant director before taking over as executive director upon Householder’s retirement at age 88. In total, they worked closely together for about a year and half, Ballint said.
“He taught me a lot about the county that I didn’t know,” Ballint said. “Everyone on the riverfront thinks the county line ends at the (Ohio Valley) mall (St. Clairsville); everyone out in Barnesville, Belmont, the Flushing area thinks the county line ends at the mall. We are so geographically spread out. It was a blessing for me to learn all about Belmont County.”
She pointed out that communities along the Ohio River tend to be more industrial, while those in the western half of the county are more rural and agricultural.
“We are the same county, the same state, but we have different lives,” she added. “Doc taught me that. He showed me all there was to offer, the history of our county — he was able to share that and educate me, and I feel really blessed and honored to call him not only my boss but also my friend.”
Now also retired from her position with the tourism council, Ballint became emotional as she reflected on Householder and his children.
“When you knew Doc, you also knew his family,” she said as she began to choke up. “My condolences go to the boys and their families. … I became very close to them. As he neared retirement, we shared a relationship to help make sure Doc was always safe.
“He lived a great life. He outlived many at age 94, but it’s still hard when you lose a loved one.”
Householder is survived by two sons, Tony (Debbie) Householder and Tom (Valerie) Householder, both of Barnesville, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be held 4-8 p.m. Monday at Wilson Funeral Home, Barnesville Chapel, 702 E. Main St., Barnesville. A funeral service will be held there at 11 a.m. Tuesday with burial to follow at Crestview Cemetery in Barnesville.
The family asks that memorial contributions be made to Walton Home, 1254 E. Main St., Barnesville, Ohio 43713, where Householder lived for several years after his retirement.