Barnesville – Positivity and Possibilities – These are the factors that have made “Doc” Householder a key figure in the growth and success of his community.
Ira Eugene “Doc” Householder, retired executive director of Belmont County Tourism and founder of what has become the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival, died Tuesday. He is 94 years old.
In his 9+ years locally, he has owned and operated several businesses in downtown Barnesville and spent 28 years promoting his beloved county as a tourist destination. He has been a member of the Barnesville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Village Kidney Club for more than half a century.
Over the years, Barnesville Village Superintendent Roger Deal has worked closely with Householder on many projects. He recalled warm memories of the man, saying “The Doctor” was “always positive” and believed that “anything is possible”.
“He’s had a huge impact on his community — and I’m not just talking about Barnesville, but Belmont County,” Dill said, noting that Householder’s store is a key element of the village’s business community. “He’s always so positive. When you meet Doc, you feel good.”
Deal also pointed to the growth of the Pumpkin Festival and said Householder was largely responsible for its growth. According to his obituary, Householder attended the first Barnesville Fall Festival meeting and soon became the organization’s president. The event began in the basement of the Catholic Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Barnesville and has since grown into one of the largest festivals in Ohio, drawing more than 100,000 people to the community each year.
“I don’t think he ever said anything negative…” Dill continued. “That’s why he’s been so successful, and I think it’s influenced all of us. It certainly had a huge impact on me.
“He wanted us all to support him. What an impact… what a wonderful person he was. Miss him dearly.”
Wheeling University Chancellor Ginny Favede served as Belmont County Commissioner during her tenure at Householder and on the Tourism Commission. On Friday, she fondly recalled him with images of him in his ever-present suspenders and how he and his late Ruth loved each other.
“He’s an amazing guy,” Favid said. “I think he just makes you a better person by knowing him.
“He was always happy to share any good news about Belmont County,” she continued, remembering the regular updates he would provide the committee. “He’s very proud. He’s always bragging about what’s going on. He loves the people of Barnesville.”
Favede said Householder knows Belmont County and its history better than anyone — and he teaches that history to anyone nearby.
“They don’t make men like Doc Householder anymore,” she added.
Barb Ballint worked with Householder, initially as a member of the Tourism Commission Board, then as his Assistant Director, and then as Executive Director upon Householder’s retirement at age 88.
In total, they worked closely together for about a year and a half, Balint said.
“He taught me a lot about the county that I didn’t know,” Balint said. “Everyone on the Riverside thinks the county line ends at the (Ohio Valley) Mall (St. Clairsville); everyone in Barnesville, Belmont, and Flushing thinks the county line ends at the Mall. We at Geography It’s so spread out. It’s been a blessing for me to know everything there is to know about Belmont County.”
She noted 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 live differently,” she added. “The doctor taught me. He showed me all that had to offer, the history of our county – I feel so lucky and honored that he was able to share and educate me, not only to call him my boss, but to call him mine friend.”
Now that Balint, too, has retired from her tourism board role, she becomes emotional as she reflects on Household and his children.
“When you get to know Doc, you get to know his family,” she said as she began to choke up. “My condolences go out to the boys and their families. … I became close to them. We developed a relationship as he approached retirement to help ensure Doc is always safe.
“He’s had a great life. He’s outlived a lot of people at 94, but it’s still hard when you lose someone.”
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 Monday from 4-8 p.m. at Wilson Funeral Home, Barnesville Chapel, 702 E. Main St., Barnesville. A funeral will be held there at 11am on Tuesday, followed by a funeral at Crestview Cemetery in Barnesville.
The family has requested a memorial donation for the Walton Home, 1254 E. Main St., Barnesville, Ohio 43713, where the Householder lived for several years after retirement.