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Jewish World Review March 1, 2001 / 6 Adar, 5761

Kim Bates

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Consumer Reports

77-year-old great-grandpa hit with false child support claim -- NORWALK, Ohio -- John Bakewell is a great-grandfather. So imagine his surprise when he was recently accused of being a deadbeat dad - even though his youngest child is 46 years old.

Last fall, the 77-year-old man's former wife wrongfully accused him of failing to pay child support, almost 50 years after their divorce. Bakewell found out about his former wife's claim when an enforcement agency began taking $183 a month from his paycheck and told him that he owed $45,000 in back child support.

The problem has since been corrected. But Bakewell and some of his children are unhappy about the way the situation was handled. They lodged a complaint this week against Huron County's child-support enforcement agency. And they blame Ruth Jesberger, who filed the erroneous claim.

"They were just so anxious to get the geriatric poster boy for nonsupport. But didn't any kind of light bulb go off and say: 'Why has she waited 50 years?'" said his daughter, Mary Bakewell. "It's not like we're sitting here, little children with diapers and bottles in our mouths."

Jesberger said Tuesday that she regrets filing the child-support complaint against her former husband. She said she did it because she raised five children alone by waiting tables in restaurants and felt that the $90 a week in child support she received from Bakewell just wasn't enough.

"I think for what I went through, I was entitled to more," she said. "Mainly, I've suffered for years. Let him go through something. It was my revenge."

Jesberger said she pursued a child-support action against Bakewell after hearing so much in the news about deadbeat dads. She went to Huron County, where the Bakewells used to live, and produced a 1954 divorce record and a court statement saying she was owed child support.

Because the records were so old, employees could not research the case in the computer, said Judy Fegen, director of the county's department of job and family services. Fegen said the department followed the law when it began deducting payments from Bakewell's paycheck, and later his Social Security check after he quit his job.

He received a notice saying he owed a total of $45,000. "I knew nothing about it until they started deducting it," Bakewell said. "They gave me no idea how long they wanted that $183."

Bakewell said he quit his part-time job at a car dealership because he was so embarrassed about the payroll deduction.

Unable to convince the agency it was wrong, Bakewell finally hired an attorney and found an Erie County Probate Court document from 1978 stating that Bakewell had completed paying the child support.

Jesberger said she was not aware until recently that the document existed. Terry Boose, a Huron County commissioner, said commissioners began fixing the problem after it was brought to their attention for the first time last week. Boose and other commissioners apologized to Bakewell, his wife, Norma, and his two daughters when they attended a commissioners' meeting this week.

Kim Batesis a writer with the Toledo Blade. Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, SHNS