Findlay woman served community as matron at Hancock County jail

By ERIC SCHAADT
Staff Writer
Lois Jean Bell didn’t push her sons into careers in law enforcement. Not with the low salaries. The long hours. Being on call 24/7.
But that didn’t deter her sons. Some became sheriff’s deputies and dispatchers.
Those careers seemed attractive to them: The tradition. The respect. A full day’s work. The sharp uniforms.
Inside one interview room at the Hancock County Justice Center, two of her sons, Cris and Brad Bell, reflected recently on the life of their mother, who died on Oct. 13 at age 81 at Bridge Hospice Care Center in Findlay.
Mrs. Bell was a matron at the old Hancock County jail on Broadway at the same time her husband, William Bell, served as county sheriff, from 1965 to 1981.
“She did a little of everything,” said Brad Bell, who started at the sheriff’s office in 1971 as a dispatcher and retired as a road deputy in 2001.
When she started as matron, according to Brad Bell, the sheriff’s office consisted of 13 people, and Mrs. Bell’s role was “multi-tasking.”
Some of her various duties included cooking for prisoners, handling payroll and other paperwork, and processing female prisoners into the jail.
When needed, she would travel to Wilson’s Sandwich Shop on South Main Street for hamburgers to feed inmates.
“Traditionally, the sheriff’s wife was matron,” Brad Bell explained. “Everybody did everything. I saw the hours they (his parents) put in. It was 24/7.”
Brad and Cris Bell maintained they were never pushed into law enforcement by their parents, but the brothers saw the examples their parents set.
Brad Bell, born in 1953, said, “I never wanted to do anything else. It was in my blood. They knew that’s what I wanted to do. They knew what I was interested in.”
Cris Bell, today a lieutenant with the sheriff’s office after starting as a dispatcher in 1992, recalled, “It was what I thought was an honorable cause.”
Another son, Brent, has been a sheriff’s dispatcher for two years.
Cris Bell, born in 1967, did entertain the notion of a career in computers, but he saw the respect his parents were given in their jobs. The brothers also saw their parents go to work in their uniforms.
“It made me want to continue that,” Cris Bell said.
While working at the jail and raising her children, Mrs. Bell relied on scribbled notes attached with Scotch tape to bulletin boards and other spots to remind co-workers of assignments, and, at home, to tell her sons to close the doors after entering the house.
“She had a note around for everything,” Cris Bell said. “She could have invented the Post-It Note.”
Service organizations were important to Mrs. Bell, even when health issues prevented her full participation.
She would bring a Thermos of coffee to people constructing homes for the needy through Habitat for Humanity.
While undergoing rehabilitation at the Heritage, she tried to make sure coffee was being delivered to those sites.
“She was worried about that, not about her health,” Cris Bell recounted. “She still insisted someone do that.” The same held true with boxes of canned food that had to be delivered from her home to food drives conducted by Powell Memorial United Methodist Church, even after she had a major surgery.
“She wasn’t worried about herself,” Cris Bell said.
For 25 years, Mrs. Bell was associated with the Zonta organization and its many charity functions.
A 1950 graduate of Findlay High School, she married William Bell on July 31, 1950, and he died Dec. 25, 2002.
She retired last year as owner of Bell Security Services, a business that included as employees, at one time or another, her sons Brian Bell and Craig Bell.
Schaadt: 419-427-8414
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