Monday, Nov 20, 2017
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John F. Richards (1950-2017)

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John F. Richards

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SWANTON — John F. Richards, a third-generation firefighter in his hometown who brought mechanical aptitude to his work and a sense of service to his duty as a union leader, died Monday at the Neapolis-area home of stepson Aaron Tilton. He was 67.

He had congestive heart failure and kidney problems and likely had a heart attack, his wife, Patricia, said. The couple, of Fulton Township, Fulton County, had been at a Labor Day family get-together.

Mr. Richards’ health forced him about a decade ago to put aside his longstanding handyman business.

“John was good at anything and tinkering and figuring it out,” his wife said. “He was hands-on. He could fix cars and put roofs on.”

Hanging kitchen cabinets was just one of the projects he did for his brother, Jim Richards.

“All he had to do is hear I was struggling with something, he’d be over,” his brother said.

Mr. Richards was born Jan. 29, 1950, to Margaret and Irving Richards. He was a graduate of Rossford High School and, at age 18, signed up for the Rossford Fire Department.

“Absolutely. It was expected, frankly,” said his brother, a former firefighter and a former member of Rossford City Council, who represents the city on the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority board.

Their grandfather, also Irving Richards, was on the fire brigade of the Libbey-Owens-Ford Co., a predecessor to the town’s own fire department.

The late Mr. Richards’ father was a firefighter and secretary of the fire department and was Rossford tax commissioner and civil defense director.

“A desire to serve runs in our family. The family has always been involved in community service,” said Mr. Richards’ brother, a former Blade staff writer.

Mr. Richards rose quickly through the ranks and left the fire force after several years as a lieutenant.

He worked briefly at L-O-F, but for about 15 years was a machinist for Libbey Glass in North Toledo. 

“He was extraordinarily mechanically inclined,” his brother said.

At the plant level at Libbey Glass, he became a representative of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. He later was elected as a business representative of the union’s District 57 in northwest Ohio and dealt with members across a variety of companies, from Libbey Glass to Pilliod Cabinet to Wonder Bread.

Mr. Richards got to know the particulars of members’ jobs and their contracts as he handled grievances and arbitrations on their behalf and took part in negotiations.

“He liked to talk,” his wife said. “And to talk and be heard, you have to have good information.”

He could see both sides of a situation, his brother said.

“He was able to bridge the gap between labor and management with reason, rather than confrontation,” his brother said. “He had real heart.”

Surviving are his wife, Patricia Richards, whom he married Jan. 8, 1999; sons, Eddy and Jon Richards; stepson, Aaron Tilton; brother, Jim Richards; sister, Maureen Millen; six grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren.

Memorial services are pending. Arrangements are by Barnes Funeral Chapel, Delta, Ohio. 

The family suggests tributes to the Ohio chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Independence, Ohio, or Guide Dogs of America, Sylmar, Calif.

Contact Mark Zaborney at mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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