Here’s a little background on the Nettles and a slice of their early lives, as shared by their family:
The former Dorothy Hansel, one of 17 children, grew up in Canal Fulton and North Lawrence. Robert “Bob” Nettle was the oldest of six and grew up in Manchester.
Dorothy and Robert met at Canal Fulton High School where both were in the band — she played baritone horn and he, the trombone. They’ve been making beautiful music together ever since.
“Dad was home on leave in ’44 before shipping out to the Philippines and Mom suggested that they get married,” their firstborn daughter Karen Butler wrote. “They were married in his parents’ living room with his siblings and parents in attendance. Dad had some pocket change, but not enough to pay the minister, so his brothers gave them money to pay the minister and enough to have a very short honeymoon in Cleveland.”
While he was at war, Dorothy lived with his maternal grandparents in Cuyahoga Falls and worked as a secretary at Greyhound. By the time he came home, she was working at Firestone at the gun mount division. Robert worked for Firestone and Barberton Laundry, then in 1952 got a job with Farm Bureau Insurance, which became Nationwide. He worked for the company for 37 years.
The Nettles first set up housekeeping on Akron’s Carpenter Street, where Karen was born. When Karen was six months old, they purchased a house and six acres in Copley Township.
“There they raised five acres of pickles for sale to the pickle factory in Sharon Center,” Butler noted. “There was also a vegetable garden and a pig sty (Dorothy stayed in shape by chasing the sow up the road every time it got loose), and, of course, the outhouse.”
The family moved in 1954 into a home on Barberton’s 31st Street where Nettles set up his insurance office and his wife served as his secretary until he was able to hire someone else.
“Dad also was a real estate broker and had his own company, with several salespeople,” Butler wrote. “And he and Mom for years had an income tax business. Busy people!”
As if these businesses and five daughters didn’t keep them busy, they were involved in many organizations and in their church, Johnson United Methodist. Robert also got involved in politics, serving as Barberton’s 6th ward councilman for six years, followed by four years as council president and one year as Barberton’s safety director.
In 1977, he became a state representative, a post he held for nine years, then a state senator, retiring in 1995.
And for many years they were Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, “leading the lighting of the Christmas trees in Norton and Barberton,” Butler noted. “Visiting nursing homes, schools and many families who needed Santa Claus at the special time of the year. No, these people didn’t call him. But Santa knew who was in need and appeared at their doors to deliver a little Christmas cheer and simple gifts.”
They continued this Christmas tradition “until Santa’s knees gave out and the reindeer were passed to the next generation.”