Dennis Belle earned the title "Mr. Newcomerstown" through a lifetime of civic leadership and service.
Belle, 82, died Wednesday, June 13, 2018, at home, surrounded by his family.
Loverne Marlatt of Newcomerstown met Belle when both attended Ohio State University and Belle drove back and forth on weekends.
"We had a lot of good times," Marlatt said. "I was best man at his wedding, and he was best man at mine."
Marlatt described his friend as "a very nice person and generally low-key, but he had a lot of energy as far as doing things. I coached football with him. He officiated a lot of track and volleyball. I helped coach basketball, football and track, so I saw him in a sports setting quite often.
"He was also very generous. If anybody wanted him to do something, he never said "No.′ He was always doing something for the school, American Legion -- he was very proud of his military service experience -- Lions Club or the church."
When Belle somehow found some free time, he liked to fish.
After graduating from Newcomerstown High School in 1953, Belle served in the United States Air Force for four years, stationed in Germany during the Korean War. He went on to Ohio State, graduating with a degree in education. He returned to his hometown to teach high school history.
In 1960, he married Wanda Spring of Coshocton, and they raised three children.
Belle earned his master’s degree from Ohio State, and became the high school guidance counselor. Over the years, he also was athletic director, coached girl’s basketball, boy’s freshman football, and officiated volleyball and track. After retiring in 1994, he continued to substitute teach. He touched the lives of many of Newcomerstown’s youth during his career.
Belle’s vast civic activity involved the Lions Club, Library Board, VFW, American Legion, Christ United Methodist Church, Red Cross, Historical Society, Bicentennial Committee, and other clubs and committees. He served on village council, and was appointed as mayor in 1982.
He was particularly proud to be involved in the Newcomerstown Scholarship Foundation, formerly Dollars for Scholars, which has provided scholarships for students to pursue higher education.
His obituary states that memorial contributions may be made to the Newcomerstown Scholarship Foundation 830 W. State St., Newcomerstown, or Newcomerstown Honor Guard PO Box 742, Newcomerstown.
Belle served on the American Legion Honor Guard as chaplain, and considered it a privilege to provide military honors for area veterans at their funerals.
Denny Ross has known Belle since 1963, when Ross started his freshman year. After Ross returned from military service, they worked together on American Legion projects and the honor guard.
"Denny was the go-to guy if you wanted something done," Ross said. "He was always willing to step in and do whatever was needed."
"Any time you had something to do with the veterans, he’d take care of the bulk of it," Ross said. "Sometimes, people will attend a program and they don’t think that it took much to put it on, but it takes a lot more than most people realize."
For years, Belle organized the annual Memorial Day program. "And, we always just relied on Denny to do the veterans’ programs at the school. He was a teacher, and knew the ins and outs."
"He would sell flowers for the Lions Club to help raise funds. He was always outgoing, would associate with anybody and didn’t mind getting his hands dirty. He might not always be in charge, but he would do what others weren’t willing to do."
Six of the veterans group went to Belle’s home on Tuesday, and many of them became teary eyed.
"Denny was about 12 years older than me," Ross said. "He was kind of a mentor to me. It hurts us that he’s gone. (Family members) told us they were overwhelmed by how many people had come to see him.
"There’s a brotherhood once you’re a veteran. I’ll be 72 in August. When I started in the color guard, we went to funerals for World War II veterans. Since then, we’ve buried so many from the Korean War and the Vietnam War. In the last 20 years, just our honor guard has served at 500 to 600 funerals. It affects us all. Even though it’s their family, it’s also like a family member to us."
Belle’s obituary states, "He was a devoted husband to his wife of almost 58 years, loving father and grandfather, tireless community servant, faithful church member, and friend to so many people. He devoted his life to serving others."