Family, friends remember city icon

Charles Call, who died Aug. 17, was known for work in agriculture, government

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
Mayor  John Pribonic, left, gave Jean and Charles Call a city proclamation honoring their 75th anniversary  in 2019.

STOW – “You need to make a contribution to our community. If you are going to live in the same place your whole life, you need to make a contribution.”

Charles Call put his words into action for his entire life, as a farmer, family man and someone who was active with several civic groups and the community. Mr. Call died Aug. 17 at age 99.

What the Call family is best known for is Call Farm, and Charles Call’s activities with farming and agriculture, including the Darrow Street Grange and the Summit County Fair. Son Howard Call called his father “a leader in agriculture,” who was named to the state’s Agricultural Hall of Fame, just like Charles Call’s father, also named Howard. Charles Call was one of the 12 founders of the Junior Fair – now the Summit County Fair -- in Tallmadge, which started in 1956, with the first fair in 1957, Howard Call said.

Howard Call and sister Suzanne Cryst are the sixth generation for Call Farms, with the family first settling in Stow in 1803, the same year Ohio became a state.

Cryst said that her father even “created a document about farming through the generations.” In that document, Mr. Call talked about farming research and the challenges and changes through the generations. He wrote how his grandfather “was instrumental in rebuilding the soil,” which was becoming depleted of nutrients.

“Dad called his generation the generation of mechanization,” Cryst said.

Cryst said that her father “in some ways was a self-made man.”

“His father was a graduate of Ohio State and wanted Charles to go,” Cryst said. “He never thought of himself as smart, but he did it for one quarter, just to prove he could, then he came back home to carry on the tradition in his family.”

Mayor John Pribonic said that he and Mr. Call talked often in the 30 years they knew each other.

“Charlie, Jean [Mr. Call’s wife of more than 75 years] and I go way back,” Pribonic said. “I moved here about 30 years ago, and they were among the first people I met. Charlie and I used to have a cup of coffee and talk while Jean did the shopping. I can’t tell you how many times we sat over a cup of coffee and talked about a variety of topics.”

Pribonic said that he also remembered Mr. Call for his brightly colored socks, for being a friendly person and his love for Stow.

“Even when he sold off his farm, he told me I have to find the right developer,” Pribonic said. “He wanted a park for the kids, those types of things were important to him. He kept his homestead there on the site so he could stay there. He just loved the land.”

This fall, Pribonic said the city plans to resurrect something that the Call Farm was known for: hayrides. “Charlie used to take everyone on hayrides.”

In addition, the city has plans to name something after Charlie, although this is still in the works, Pribonic said.

“We want to make sure that he is not forgotten,” Pribonic said. “Charlie and Jean have been a tremendous part of Stow history.”

Pribonic said that Mr. and Mrs. Call were “the perfect wedded couple.”

“They were always together, almost inseparable,” Pribonic said.

Cryst said that her father “had a great respect for my mother and her role in his life, and in the farm and community.”

“He credits her for the survival of the farm, she was fiscally responsible,” Cryst said. “He absolutely adored my mother.”

In the document Mr. Call wrote on farming over the generations, he included a section on the role of women on the Call Farm, Cryst said.

As well as the farm and involvement in several community activities, Cryst said her parents loved to dance.

“Boy, could they dance,” Cryst said. “He was a square dance caller. They were an amazing couple. He called for square dances for more than 20 years and called dances from all over.”

One of son Howard Call’s early memories of his father was when Charles Call did the calling for area square dances.

“I remember as a young child, we’d go to these dances,” said Call. “My mother would put me in a basket and put me behind the piano.”

The piano would play, and Call said he “slept through the entire thing.”

Howard Call said that his parents loved to travel, and traveled frequently once he was old enough to milk the cows and manage the farm. They loved to go on cruises and to events like the Ohio State Fair.

“Father was very interested in agriculture when they traveled,” Call said.

Mr. Call was the son of Howard and Laura Call. As well as his two children, Mr. Call had six grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren, two nephews and two nieces.

A graduate of Stow High School, Mr. Call kept the family farm - of which he was the fifth generation - with a productive dairy herd, raised chickens, grew wheat, corn, hay, trees, and had a 20-acre sugar bush to produce maple syrup each spring. Many farm tours of children, college students and adults, both local and international, visited Call's Farm to gain knowledge of how American farming had evolved and its part in the national food supply.   

Mr. Call was past master of Darrow Street Grange of which he was a life member; director emeritus of the Grange Mutual Casualty Company, and past chief of the Ohio Department of Reclamation, Division of Natural Resources in Columbus. He was recognized for 26 years of service to Stow government, primarily the Civil Service Commission that he chaired for 10 years. He also served on Summit County Farm Bureau, Summit County Soil and Water Conservation Cooperative, Ohio Rural Development Council Board of Trustees, Ohio Oil and Gas Association, Ohio Fair Plan Underwriting Association, The Ohio State College of Agriculture Extension Advisory Committee, Summit County Dairy Board, Ohio Parks and Recreation Council, and president of Cleveland Farmers' Club.   

In lieu of flowers, the family asks those who wish to make a donation to contribute to the Summit County Junior Fair Building Fund.   

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@recordpub.com.