Jon Garrison Bell
March 08, 1942 ‒ July 24, 2020
A stroll through the Mansfield home of Jon Garrison Bell is all it takes to give a glimpse at the kind of loving, caring, intelligent, curious, handy and humorous husband, father, friend and human being that he was.
Weighty family room bookshelves groan with a library of classic literature mixed with books on origami, beekeeping, sourdough baking, music theory, bubble blowing, juggling, astronomy, bike trails and hikes, the Muppets and more. Family photos around the house show him celebrating his 50th anniversary with his wife and family at Malabar Farm in 2018, at his daughter’s wedding in 2019 and halfway up Oregon’s Mt. Hood with his son in 2003.
Down in the basement are wine bottles from days past when he would make elderberry wine with his brother. A darkroom he built for developing photographs sits in one corner, an HO scale train table in another. Half-finished airplane models, boomerangs and kites scatter across workbenches alongside tools of nearly every trade. Upstairs, there’s a signed Cleveland Indians baseball on his desk, a hand-crafted ship in a bottle, family memorabilia tagged with personal notes identifying who or what it is so future generations will know. There’s an old bar mirror of his favorite brew – Stroh’s – and a prominently displayed photo of his parents, whom he loved and cared for always.
Such a stroll only gives a small peek into the person who Jon Garrison Bell was. Born March 8, 1942, in Mansfield, Ohio, to Dorothy and Arthur Bell, Jon grew up mostly in Mansfield save for a stint in Mt. Vernon, where his parents ran a downtown restaurant. He graduated from Mansfield Senior High School in 1960 and attended Weslyan University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in biology in 1964. After meeting Melissa Lowrey at a New Year’s Eve party, he married her on August 3, 1968. Jon also enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard, serving his country with pride. He worked as an engineer at the Mansfield Tire and Rubber Company before joining Jay Plastics, later to become Jay Industries, where he was an engineer and all-around problem solver until his retirement in 2008. As an example of his creative ingenuity in employment at Jays, Jon was once called upon to devise a solution to a unique problem with the spring mechanism on the ashtray of the famed Dodge Viper. He did so without a flinch.
Beyond his career, Jon was a dedicated member of the community who believed in making life in Mansfield better for everyone. A voracious reader and crossword puzzler, he was a weekly patron of the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library as well as a longtime member of the library’s board of directors. He also served for many years on the board of Richland County Children’s Services and was a frequent volunteer for the library, the North Central Ohio Land Conservancy, local schools and other organizations.
Jon was an avid cyclist who logged thousands of miles around Richland County, including at least one summer spent visiting all nine branches of the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library on two wheels. Over his years, he was also an amateur beekeeper, a sailor, bread maker, gardener, chimney sweep, playhouse builder, hiker, kite flyer, soccer coach, Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Indians fan, and an overall jack of all trades who knew a little something about everything and who was willing to share that knowledge or lend a hand to anyone who might need it.
Above all, Jon was a dedicated family man who loved and supported his wife and two children throughout their lives together. That love and support came in all forms, whether he was working hard at his job, driving carloads of kids to early-morning swim team practices, fixing up the house, offering advice, lending an ear, playing pranks, or simply being the kind, gentle and giving person that he always was.
Jon passed away peacefully on Friday, July 24, at the age of 78 after a slow decline from Alzheimer’s. He was preceded in death by his father, Arthur Bell, his mother, Dorothy Bell, and his brother, James Bell. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Melissa Bell, his daughter, Melinda Bell Allenbaugh (Jamie), and his son, Jon Bell (Amy), as well as four grandchildren – Mitch (Douglas) and Jacob Miller and Madeline and Spencer Bell – and one great-grandchild, Lucy Miller.
He will be missed by everyone who had the good fortune to know him.
A celebration of Jon’s life will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2, at Snyder’s Funeral Home, 350 Marion Ave., in Mansfield.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be sent to either the Richland County Foundation, www.richlandcountyfoundation.org, to support the Clearfork Valley Scenic Trail or the Richland County Parks District, www.richlandcounty.gov, to support the Richland B&O Trail, where Jon loved to ride his bike.
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