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Community mourns the loss of local swim coach

NEW RICHMOND, Ohio (Paula Toti) -- A local community is mourning the loss of their beloved swim coach.

Joe Middeler died Friday night in a tragic lawnmower accident at his home.  He touched many lives holding not one, but two high profile roles in the community.
Joe Middeler was a graduate of Xavier University but it's fair to say his roots and most of his life has been centered on New Richmond and the small communities along US-52.  His late father Joe Sr. first bought the grocery store across from Grant's birthplace, then Joe bought  what is now an iconic carryout.

It's a step-back-in-time sort of store.  The little carryout in Point Pleasant.  Joe's wife and sisters shared special photos of him that will be displayed at his funeral.  Between working in his own store and working in the school district he had the whole community covered.

High School Principal, Mark Bailey, said, "I don't think Joe ever met a stranger and by the time I was in kindergarten I knew who Joe Middeler was, knew who the whole Middeler family was."

Mark Bailey, the Principal at New Richmond High School, says Joe and his sister Judy have both been long time swim coaches in the district.  The pool stands idle Monday night after another successful season.

Turning out many young athletes who went on to college success, Joe was inducted into the New Richmond High School Sports Hall of Fame and was active in the PTO and had been a substitute teacher.

New Richmond's Superintendent, Adam Bird, said, "Just all kinds of jobs around the district that no one gets recognized for.  We're really thankful for what he's done for us."

The 63-year-old, 1970 graduate of New Richmond High School was in Vietnam and stressed education even with the young customers he met in his store.  Superintendent Bird says counselors were at the school Monday and the swim team was told about the loss at a special meeting.

His family opened Joe's store just hours after his death Saturday morning for the sake of the customers who loved him.  Those photos that will be at the funeral were a gift from Enquirer Photographer Dave Kohl.  When he heard Joe died he hunted down some photos that were taken of Joe and his store after the 97 floods. 

His family vows to keep the place going that has gone through so much.

A visitation for Middeler will be from 4p.m. to 8p.m. Wednesday at the Nurre Funeral Home in Amelia.  The funeral is Thursday morning at 10:30 at Saint Peter Church in New Richmond.

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