John C. Dresser, a record-setting DeVilbiss High School football star and a Toledo Trust Co. vice president, who became a McDonald’s franchisee in Indiana, died Saturday in hospice care at Moorings Park, Naples, Fla. He was 80.
He had acute leukemia, his family said. He and his wife, Nancy, lived at Moorings Park, a retirement community.
Mr. Dresser, formerly of Greenfield, Ind., formed a management company, Fast Food Consultants, to oversee the McDonald’s restaurants east of Indianapolis of which he was franchisee. He sold the operation to his son, Donald, leaving restaurant ownership behind about 2003, son John, Jr., said.
In his headline-making high school career, Mr. Dresser was “DeVilbiss’ All-America schoolboy halfback,” as Blade sports writer Tom Loomis put it. Year after year under Coach Hilton Murphy, DeVilbiss took City League championships.
“We had a football team that lost one game in three years,” said Jim Jeffery, a teammate who was a guard on those DeVilbiss squads. “We had a very good line, and he had good speed and was a very strong, hard runner. He had to be one of the finest halfbacks to play in Toledo.”
Mr. Dresser’s City League record of 162 points in 10 games stood from 1955 until November, 1978.
“High school football opponents have finally found a way to stop Johnny Dresser: Graduation,” Blade sports editor Don Wolfe wrote in 1955 as the season wound down.
Mr. Dresser also ran track and played basketball. But the scores of colleges and universities that contacted him his senior year sought his football skill. Through the winter of 1956, he was undecided, despite prodding by attendees at the annual dinner of the Downtown Coaches Association, which presented him an award as outstanding player in the city.
He announced in April, 1956, that he would go to the University of Michigan, but in August, he changed his enrollment to Ohio State University.
“He loved Woody Hayes,” his son John, Jr., said. “He was a taskmaster, but as my dad said, he was a fabulous teacher.”
Injury limited his play — first a dislocated shoulder his freshman year, then knee troubles as a sophomore. He traveled with Ohio State to the 1958 Rose Bowl, where the Buckeyes defeated Oregon.
“I love every phase at Ohio State and would even if I didn’t play football,” Mr. Dresser told The Blade before the big game.
He and his wife had married in November, 1957, and he decided to leave school, although he had another year of eligibility.
“They couldn’t wait to start a family and take the next step,” son John, Jr., said.
Born Jan. 20, 1938, to Alberta and Donald Dresser, he went to work at Toledo Trust after leaving Ohio State. His father was Toledo Trust president. Mr. Dresser attended graduate level courses in banking at the University of Wisconsin and Northwestern University. He was a longtime correspondent banker for Toledo Trust. He later was in charge of the department.
Mr. Dresser was named a Toledo Trust vice president in 1972. He wanted to become a business owner and was impressed by the McDonald’s approach. After training, he was awarded a store. In time, he had seven. He became president of an advertising cooperative of Indianapolis-area McDonald’s and was on the board of a national ad co-op for the chain.
“His team experience translated so well to the McDonald’s model and made him a great executive,” his son said. “That was the key to his success, and that started with guys like Hilton and Woody.”
Despite his football injuries, he remained athletic — water skiing, snow skiing, playing tennis. He went to Clear Lake, Ind., with his parents during the summer as he grew up, as did his wife. That’s where they met, and they continued the tradition.
“He moved away from Toledo for business reasons, but summering in Clear Lake for all his life kept him close to Toledo. Toledo was always a part of him.”
Surviving are his wife, the former Nancy Dildine; sons, John, Jr., and Donald; and five grandchildren.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Bower Chapel in the Moorings Park community.
The family suggests tributes to Ronald McDonald House of Central Indiana.
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