Robert Slack, a respected arborist who helped the city of Sylvania maintain its treescape and outdoor municipal spaces, retiring as superintendent of parks and forestry, died April 6 in his Oklahoma City hotel room. He was 69.
He and his wife, Roseann, were en route to their South Toledo home from winter travels west when he became ill. He’d been dealing with cancer for about a year, his wife said.
Mr. Slack retired in 2008 after 27 years with Sylvania. He was a former executive board member of the Society of Professional Arborists.
He was hired to help Art Landseadel, a landscape architect and city forester who was known for his ideas to beautify Sylvania.
“The person who made those ideas real was Bob Slack,” said Patrick O’Brien, Mr. Slack’s successor as superintendent of parks and forestry.
Mr. Slack ensured Sylvania maintained its status as a Tree City USA by having the right kinds of trees in the right places, such as public rights of way, and then caring for them, Mayor Craig Stough said.
“He improved the environment of the entire city,” Mr. Stough said. “He was a wonderful find for the city of Sylvania.”
Mr. Slack conducted city tree inventories and took charge of annual plantings and maintenance in parks and around city facilities and put together a work force to make sure all that was done, Mr. O’Brien said.
Mr. Slack also had a key role in establishing the city’s curbside green recycling program, Mr. Stough said.
Mr. Slack’s wife said, “His pride was the parks and how well kept up they were.
“He loved doing what he was doing,” she said. “He could tell you the Latin name of any plant.”
He’d been active in the International Society of Arboriculture and its Ohio chapter; the Society of Municipal Arborists, and the Professional Grounds Management Society.
He was born Nov. 19, 1948, in Pittsburgh to Frances and William Slack. He grew up in Mentor, Ohio, and was a graduate of Mentor High School. From age 14 he worked in the nurseries of Mentor, and he received a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and landscape architecture in 1970 from Michigan State University.
Afterward, he went to Scotland and worked in Glasgow’s parks. He became a teacher in a Toledo Public Schools landscape horticulture program, then at the Toledo Zoo, and later moved to what is now the Toledo Botanical Garden.
In retirement, he and his wife spent winters in Arizona. In the growing season, he spent hours tending his property.
“Our yard is full of flowers,” his wife said. “He would think nothing of spending $40 for three little bulbs. Our grass is as green as anything in the summer.”
Surviving are his wife, Roseann Slack, whom he married Aug. 14, 1976; sisters, Susan Horn and Nancy Slack, and brother William Slack.
Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Coyle Funeral Home, where services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The family suggests tributes to the Fort Meigs Sertoma Club in Whitehouse or Ss. Peter and Paul Church.
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