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Fredrick Theodore Wehr

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MUSA Council
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    Posted: May 23 2016 at 10:48am

Posted: 8:00 a.m. Sunday, May 22, 2016

McCrabb: Woodside Cemetery’s ‘man with the hat’ will be missed

By Rick McCrabb

Staff Writer


Fredrick Theodore Wehr was born to bury.

For the majority of his life — including the past 36 years at Woodside Cemetery & Arboretum in Middletown — Wehr has embraced caring for those enduring what he called “the worst time of their life, the most traumatic time of their life.”

The 64-year-old is set to retire this summer as general manager of Woodside Cemetery, a position he has held since April 1, 1980 and only the second job in his life. Before that, the 1969 Hamilton Garfield High School graduate worked as assistant superintendent at Greenwood Cemetery in Hamilton, where his father, Theodore, served as manager for 38 years.

Like father, like son.

“I hope he’s proud of what we’ve done here,” Wehr said when asked about his late father’s thoughts.

Now it’s time for Mr. Woodside to walk away, time to celebrate his dedication to the dead.

Even though death is inevitable, it scares most of us. Not Wehr.

For him, it’s a way of life.

“Sure it can be depressing, but my job is to help the families make decisions,” he said.

He never has driven from his home in Milford Twp., and dreaded going to work. How many of us can honestly say that?

“Every day is different,” was his reasoning. “I can’t wait to be here.”

He said making the decision to retire was an easy one. His wife, Mary Ann, is a retired chemical engineer and they have a condo in Florida. He also wants to be a beekeeper, start a wine vineyard and continue woodworking.

“There are things to keep me busy,” he said with a smile. “It’s time. It can’t be ‘Fred’s way’ all the time.”

But it will be difficult to think of Woodside without Wehr.

Chuck Barton, president of the cemetery’s board of directors, said Wehr has been the “driving force and architect for making Woodside the special place it is today.”

Under Wehr’s leadership, Woodside, founded in 1891, has become more than a cemetery, Barton said.

“It truly is a beautiful arboretum in addition to being a place that honors our loved ones and preserves so much history,” he said. “It is one of Middletown’s hidden gems that our community can be proud of.”

When asked about his crowning achievement, Wehr thought for a few seconds, then mentioned the Administration Building and Community Center. The 6,000-square-foot facility, five times larger than the previous office, was built in 2005 at the cost of $1.3 million.

“Money very well spent,” he said.

He said the extra space in the building has allowed cemetery office employees to better serve their customers and has given the community another place to hold meetings. Several non-profit agencies hold walks/runs around the 135-acre Woodside property, the largest cemetery in Butler County.

It’s “a sacred place,” Wehr concluded.

Wehr will end his career at Woodside Cemetery on June 30. He stopped working full-time in January, spent two months in Florida with his wife, and since then, has worked with his successor, Dan Diver, a fourth generation owner of Diver’s, a garden center and the city’s longest family-owned business.

He wants to help Diver through what he called the cemetery’s “Christmas,” which is Memorial Day. Even in retirement, Wehr is concerned about those who visit Woodside.

When Wehr walks away, they probably should retire his hats and golf cart, his constant companions. A doctor once told the fair-skinned Wehr to wear a hat to protect his face from the sun. He rarely is seen without a hat.

There have been times, he said, when cemetery visitors with questions, have been told: “Go see the guy with the hat.”


Here are some of Fred Wehr’s highlights during his 36-year career at Woodside Cemetery in Middletown:

·                       The creation of a cremation scattering gardens

·                       Five new or redeveloped in-ground burial sections and a Jewish section specially designed for the requirements of the Jewish religion

·                       Four additions of mausoleum buildings to the Garden Mausoleum complex.

·                       Erection of a cremation facility in 1996. The cemetery has performed more than 6,100 cremations for Butler County families.

·                       For its 100th anniversary, Woodside became an arboretum. The staff identified the more than 2,000 trees and shrubs on the property.

·                       In 2005, the Administration Building and Community Center was built for $1.3 million

·                       The former office was converted into a cremation columbarium, where funeral urns may be stored. Families can access the climate-controlled building via a key-fob system.

·                       Erected a Ten Commandments monument that was received from Holy Trinity Catholic Church

·                       Erected a monument and area to commemorate babies who were miscarried or stillborn. Once a year, Helping Endure A Loss (HEAL) holds a memorial service and the cemetery inters the cremated remains of the babies lost in the previous year.

·                       Three Civil War cannons were refurbished. The cannons were used on the USSS Ohio warship.

SOURCE: Fred Wehr, former general manager of Woodside Cemetery


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote spiderjohn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 24 2016 at 8:25am
Tremendous community asset and a fine person
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 24 2016 at 9:52am
He did a nice job at Woodside for many years. A great asset to the community for decades. One of the bright spots in town done the right way. Thank you Mr. Wehr.
I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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