I was born in Defiance, Ohio, the county where my father was born and raised. Robert Wolfrum grew up with his two younger brothers and sister on a farm in Mark Township, a few miles south of Mark Center on the border of Paulding County. His parents, Ervin and Olive, were farmers and their house still stands on the original homestead on Farmer-Mark Road.
My dad graduated from Mark Center High School (now part of Fairview) in a class of nine and went on to Defiance College to become a teacher. He was stationed in Germany during his military service shortly after the Korean War and came home to settle into life as a high school math teacher and baseball coach. In the first part of his career, he taught algebra, calculus and geometry at schools in McClure, West Unity, Defiance, Antwerp, and Holgate.
Barbara Kinney’s father was a Methodist minister and in keeping with the ways of that denomination, my mother, her brother, and her three sisters moved several times while she was growing up. Robert Kinney had parishes in Dixon, Oakwood, Convoy, Ohio City, Ney, Melrose, and probably a few other places that I don’t know about. In the middle of those places, my mom graduated from Crestview High School in Convoy in that school’s first graduating class. My grandmother, Edith, died from a stroke shortly before I was born in 1971.
My mom went to Bowling Green State University and became an elementary school teacher. Holgate schools gave her one of her first jobs and, of course, it wasn’t long before Barbara Kinney met Robert Wolfrum and they were married in 1967. I never heard too many stories about all of that but those are the kinds of things two people keep to themselves I guess. A little over a year later my brother Tim was born and soon after that I came along. The first two years of my life, we lived in Ayersville, Ohio.
The superintendent at Holgate left to take a job at Lincolnview Schools in Van Wert County and the next year recruited my dad to be the math teacher and baseball coach there. The further lure for my mom was that her family was then at Ohio City in southern Van Wert County where my grandfather led the congregation at Kingsley United Methodist church. This church would eventually become the equivalent of my extended family as my only immediate family in the area was an aunt and uncle and their two children – and they also went to Kingsley.
Growing up, I was mostly only interested in sports and later, of course, girls. We played whatever sport was in season in our back yards in groups from two to twenty. We worked on farms in the summer, bailing hay and straw and hooking weeds out of bean fields. I had a great childhood and great parents. I became a fair athlete at Lincolnview and graduated second in my graduating class behind my best friend. But I had little idea what I wanted to do with my life when I headed off to Bluffton College (now Bluffton University).
After beginning an accounting degree, I soon became disillusioned with most everything and gravitated toward sociology, the discipline with the most interesting professor at that place and time. The study in this field began what became a lifelong suspicion of groupthink. It has always disturbed me when there are two or more people who agree on any topic, can’t logically explain why, but think their agreement is sufficient enough basis to proceed. Needless to say, this has always made me anti-establishment. Fortunately, this was back when college was relatively affordable and my parents were able to get me through without crippling debt despite my relatively unmarketable major.
A friend convinced me to take the Law School Admissions Test with him and I did well enough that the University of Toledo offered me a full scholarship to their law school. But after a semester, I dropped out. I spent the next five years working on construction crews and in factories, save a year where I was a graduate assistant in the Miami (Ohio) University history department. I learned more in these five years than I ever learned in school. I learned what people go through and that there is a nobility in real work that elites will never understand. I still do my own construction work on my rental units and built my home.
Eventually, I headed back to law school. During my three years at the University of Toledo College of Law, I got married to Angie and we had a son. Just out of law school our youngest son was born. I opened a law office in Van Wert in 2003 and spent a few years doing odd jobs to supplement our income. The practice of law, particularly a general practice in a small town, is a thousand stories unto itself. Suffice to say, I survived and gradually established my practice.
I had always enjoyed writing, especially what I call argument writing. As a way to help establish my practice, I began writing legal columns for the local paper. Eventually, these took an undertone of libertarian commentary. Political writing led me to realize that criticism without action is just words for the sake of words. I began thinking of running for office.
In 2012, I was elected Van Wert County Commissioner. There was some conflict in the county regarding economic development and then a contentious reelection in 2016 which I cover in the opening pages of “The Conservative Story.” Then there was the rise of Donald J. Trump, which changed politics forever and opened the door for anti-establishment people like myself.
The rest is all part of this campaign and I’ll tell that story as we go.