By Karen Andrew
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Businessman and community benefactor Olen Grandle died May 15 at Bethesda North Hospital at age 91. The Milford resident, who had been a farmer, parking-lot owner, basketball coach and an avid supporter of University of Cincinnati sports, was living at East Galbraith Health Care Community in Deer Park.
But Mr. Grandle likely will be most remembered for donating land for a new school in his old hometown.
Mr. Grandle was born in 1911 in Highland County and began working at age 9 for his father, a road contractor who also worked as a police officer and farmer.
Mr. Grandle was a star basketball player at Leesburg High (now called Fairfield High) and graduated in 1930.
He went on to the University of Cincinnati, where he played basketball and graduated in 1934 with a bachelor's degree in physical education.
In 1935, he married fellow student Mary Hamilton of Norwood, whom he met on a blind date.
They were married 67 years.
"He was a good basketball player - a dead shot," said long-time family friend Tess Schwab of Mariemont. "He has been a wonderful and devoted husband."
Mr. Grandle became the basketball coach at Lebanon High School.
He had to leave that job in 1947, however, because of a thyroid condition, and became a parking-lot manager in Cincinnati.
He began buying parking lots and, eventually, he owned more than 50, including 15 in Cincinnati.
He also "owned a beautiful farm in Leesburg and raised prize cattle," said Mrs. Schwab.
He was a member of the Ohio Farmers Union and Leesburg Friends Church.
"My grandfather was awesome. I'd stay with them (the grandparents) every summer," said one of his granddaughters, Holly Crow of Fayetteville, Ga.
"He was a big Reds fanatic," she said, "and he'd take me to the Reds games. He was a go-getter and nothing could stop him.
"He had a zest for life and always wanted to go."
An avid sports fan, Mr. Grandle loved to play golf and was a member of Coldstream Country Club, Anderson Township. He was a member of the University of Cincinnati's "C" club (lettermen), Beta Theta Pi fraternity, and the UCATS booster club.
In 1998, he donated 110 acres of land worth $399,200 to the Leesburg school district, Fairfield Local Schools.
In January 2002, he received a standing ovation before speaking at the dedication of the new K-12 school, which was made possible by his donation and some help from the state.
"I did it for the children. I had no idea it was so amazing," Mr. Grandle was quoted as saying in a January 2002 Enquirer article.
Wayne Fleming was the manager of Mr. Grandle's farm for more than 36 years.
"The school needed 60 acres and he gave them 110," Fleming said. "It gives (the school) places to go with its FAA projects and has woods. It's probably one of the better sites for what they need. He did a great service for the community."
A bronze plaque honoring Mr. Grandle hangs in the new school's main entrance. The school's new gym was named Grandle Gymnasium.
He was preceded in death by a daughter, Miriam Urban, in 1988.
Survivors include his wife; daughter Gretchen Warren of France; five grandchildren; and three great grandchildren.
The service has been held.
Memorials: Leesburg Friends Church, P.O. Box 393, Leesburg, OH 45135.
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