John J. Baesel's nine consecutive terms as mayor of Berea - 1931 to 1949 - stands as a record to date. He was born Feb. 21, 1886, at Deshler, Henry County, Ohio*, in a ,family of five sons and six daughters of Henry and Caroline Baesel. They came to Southwest Middleburg Township in 1886, when John was only several weeks old.
He attended the Fair Street District School and two years at Berea High School. He worked as a farm hand and as a delivery boy for the Berea Milling Company. For a year and a half he worked on a railroad signal gang and then in 1904 started working as a carpenter for Fred Fashinger. June 5, 1905, he enlisted in Co. A. 5th Ohio Artillery and rose to corporal. Upon reenlistment he rose through the ranks to Captain in April, 1918. June 30, 1915, he married Miss Florence Bredt of Berea. Two daughters were born, Doris and Marion. He served on the Mexican Border from June 1916 to March 1917. On Aug. 5, 1917, when the 45th was mustered into Federal service, he was promoted to first Lieutenant and went overseas, where he was promoted to Captain under the command of Major John Southam. His brother, second Lieutenant Albert Baesel, and a member of the same Company was killed in action in France.
In May, 1919, following service he started in the contracting and construction business on his own. In 1921, he was elected to council and re-elected to both the school board and the council, resigned from the school board in preference to the council. He served several terms on the Hospital Board of Trustees. His election to the office of mayor in 1931 restored unity within the Republican party and returned it to power. More than any other individual in Berea, he kept the Republicans in office during the Roosevelt reign in national politics.
When Baesel was elected to his fourth consecutive term the following appraisal appeared in the Berea Enterprize. "In 1931 he was elected as the first Mayor of the City of Berea and he had been that ever since. He is about as plain as an old shoe and fits and wears as well. He is not the educated and polished type and has far from the adeptness and finesse that characterizes perennial candidates for office. He is sub-average as a public speaker. He went into office with no politics to play. He took matters into his own hands and ditched party politics to become the undisputed Party Leader. But he is becoming more and more of a good politician in the right sense of the word. He is skilled in organizing and holding together his party adherents; winning public confidence and at elections not only piling up a good lead for himself but also carrying most of his slate into office. We have something here in Berea, perhaps a candidate for County Commissioner or for the State Legislature."
John Baesel and his wife died in a nursing home in August, 1966, within one day of each other's death.
* Deshler, Ohio
(MEN OF GRIT AND GREATNESS}