Many people pass through our lives that we barely remember – if we remember them at all.
There are other people whom we encounter on our journey that leave such an impression on us, they impact our lives forever.
Switzerland County lost one of those influential people on Saturday night with the passing of Carl Bovard.
Carl Bovard was born in Aberdeen in Ohio County, but his life was lived and his heart was left here in Switzerland County. After serving in the Marine Corps, he returned here to spend his life working construction - first as a member of Operating Engineers Local #18; and he was also a foreman for many years for Burnes and Conway in Cincinnati.
Retiring from that, he began his own excavating company here in Switzerland County, and after many years as a business owner, he later partnered with his son, Glenn, in the business; and later with Eddie Leap.
It was in the prime of his life that I first met Carl Bovard. Probably the first dozen times that I saw him, he was seated on a backhoe, digging something up or knocking something down. I remember as a young reporter that I needed good hearing when talking with or interviewing Carl, because I had to make his thoughts out through the steady roar of the piece of excavating equipment that he was using at the time.
If you knew Carl, you knew that he was an original: he told you exactly what he thought, and he wasn’t afraid to explain to you how he arrived at his position. To many, he seemed rough and unapproachable, but the exterior of the man didn’t always match the interior.
The Carl Bovard that I knew never hesitated to help someone who needed it. In heavy winter storms you would see him out there cleaning off driveways so people could get out and get to work themselves or for those who couldn’t help themselves. Sometimes he got paid for his work; but many other times he did it because he knew that the person was elderly or was trying to get to work on time, or was a little down on their luck and couldn’t afford to pay something.
That didn’t matter to Carl, he helped everyone.
He also did many jobs for both Switzerland County and for the Town of Vevay. Again, many times business mixed with community involvement. The job was always done the right way, whether it was spelled out in the contract that way or not.
I think because of his straight forward personality, there were times when Carl – how shall I say it? – found himself in the middle of “situations”. There were times when Carl didn’t have the time or the inclination to be “politically correct”, because there was work to do and a job to finish.
My absolute favorite story involving Carl was one of the most controversial moments in recent county history.
The County Commissioners had for years been trying to figure out just what to do with the old City Roller Mill building, which sat on Pike Street directly behind the Switzerland County Courthouse. It had been unoccupied for several years and was falling into disrepair, but efforts by private groups to secure grant money to save the building hadn’t come together.
So there it sat, squarely between historical preservation and the county’s desire to use the land for other purposes.
The commissioners took bids on tearing the building down – and Carl got the bid.
Now the question: exactly when was the demolition going to start?
Inside the building were dozens of historic machines that needed to be brought out and saved. That work was going rather slowly, and no one was sure when the work would start.
I saw Carl one Thursday morning in front of his daughter, Teresa’s, real estate office. After some small talk, I asked him when he thought he’d begin tearing the building down, and Carl told me he thought it would be at the beginning of the following week. We talked some more, and I asked if he’d give me a “heads up” when he was going to start, so I could take some photos.
Carl agreed and I went back to the office.
Steve Sieglitz worked for the newspaper at that time, and he came in after having lunch and noted that they were beginning to tear down the mill.
“No, I just talked to Carl this morning, and he’s not going to start until next week,” I said.
“Well, he’s over there right now with a wrecker ball,” Steve replied.
So I grabbed my camera and off I ran, past the courthouse and through a group of onlookers towards the large machine sitting on Pike Street.
Inside it was Carl Bovard, and dangling from the end of a big cable was a wrecker ball, poised to begin its work. Inside the building, people were scrambling to get old equipment out before the walls came down.
As the engine of the machine roared, Carl looked over and noticed me standing there. He motioned me over to the cab of the machine, and through the noise he looked me straight in the eye and said:
“Here’s your head’s up. In about 15 minutes this is coming down.”
That was Carl. He had a job to do, and he did it. Was it always popular? No, but it was work that he was hired to do.
Carl Bovard leaves a wonderful legacy in the persons of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He also leaves a legacy of hard work and serving his fellow man for each of us to follow.
I, for one, will miss him greatly.
- Pat Lanman
A complete obituary of Carl Bovard can be found on page B-2 of today’s edition.