By Bruce Stambaugh
If the little unincorporated Holmes County village of Charm, Ohio had a mayor, Ed Raber, 61, would be it.
“I get called the mayor all the time,” he said with a quiet, unassuming appreciation. Raber humbly accepts the importance he plays in the life and times of this amiable, mostly Amish populated town.
In fact, Raber’s reputation as a servant leader spans well beyond the local community. He was recently introduced as Charm’s mayor at a fundraising outing sponsored by the Ohio Forestry Association’s East Central Logger’s Chapter. The group donated half of the proceeds to the Charm Share and Care Fund, which Raber heads.
That fund financially helps local families and individuals in need, according to Raber. All proceeds from Charm Days, which are this Friday and Saturday, go into the fund.
The Charm Days event is indicative of how Raber takes the lead in getting things done for his charming hometown of Charm, population 80. By week’s end, the friendly Doughty Valley hamlet will host 6,000 revelers who will enjoy a variety of folksy activities.
They can thank Raber as much as anybody else for their good time, though he would deflect any accolades. Raber is as modest as he is congenial.
Raber and Ivan J. Miller of Keim Lumber are the main duo that makes Charm Days go. But Raber is quick to point out that it takes the entire community to actually pull off the two-day event.
“We contact the Amish bishops to make sure the bake sales are successful,” Raber said. “Everybody works together to make Charm Days happen.”
“If you have the community backing, you can make things happen,” Raber said. In his unofficial position, Raber has done just that.
Besides Charm Days, Raber has immersed himself into nearly every aspect of what makes Charm tick. He heads the Charm Share and Care fund. He is a board member of the Holmes County Chapter of the American Red Cross, and is a board member of Common Grounds Ministries, the group that supports John Schmid’s ministries.
Raber is a board member of the Charm Development Corporation, a group that organized to get natural gas into the village. When the gas company’s fees were astronomical, he helped form the group. The organization leased 40 acres and drilled its own gas well.
Raber is also president of the Charm Center Corporation, which provides rentals for the local Amish population.
“We have 300 freezers scattered around the countryside, including 80 in one building in Charm,” Raber said. “It’s another way we can help the Amish.”
For his day job, Raber is manager of Raber Lumber on the south edge of Charm. His father, Noah, started the business 66 years ago, and Ed bought into the company in 1970. His brother, Ervin, joined the partnership 20 years ago, and they sold it to a cousin in 2006.
Raber grew up Amish. He and his wife, Lorene, attend Grace Mennonite Church. The Raber’s have been married for 40 years. In fact, Raber credited his wife for much of his success.
“I have a good wife, a good partner,” he said. “She helps me out in a lot of the things we are involved in.”
After the Charm General Store burned in 1978, the Raber’s bought the property and reopened the store in February of the next year. They sold the store in 1996.
As manger of Raber Lumber, Ed does a lot of office work. But he limits his use of technology to a phone, cell phone, calculator and company radio. He does do deliveries of lumber and goes out to buy piles of logs and check stands of trees.
“I like being out in the woods better,” Raber confessed. But knows the necessities of running a successful business.
As for hobbies, Raber said he enjoys traveling and playing corn hole. His partner is a 14-year old Amish boy.
“He’s really good,” Raber said with a twinkle. “We have finished second several times and won one tournament.”
In the winter, Raber enjoys playing in a church dart ball league. Dart ball involves lobbing darts at a board that mirrors a baseball field.
“We’ve won a lot of world series,” he said with a smile.
As for inspiration, Raber doesn’t look to star athletes or movie stars.
“My father is my hero,” he volunteered. “Everything I know I have learned from him.”
Just after he had said that, Raber’s 90-year-old father, Noah, entered the mill’s office fulfilling his daily chore of delivering the mail. When told what his son had just said about him, Noah Raber slyly replied, “That sounds about right to me.”
Clearly, Raber had a good role model for humor, too.