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Published: Sunday, 7/15/2001

Union leader pushed training

John J. Kasap of Maumee, an ironworker who became secretary-treasurer of his union local and helped start its apprenticeship program, died of a heart attack July 7 at his home in Michigan's Irish Hills. He was 83.

He became an ironworker and a member of Ironworkers Local 55 before serving with the Navy Seabees in the South Pacific during World War II.

He returned home and continued his work with structural steel on construction projects throughout northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

He was asked to help in the union office in the 1950s. Shortly afterward, he was elected to the first of many terms as Local 55 financial secretary-treasurer. The job often involved negotiating with contractors.

“He was a man who really cared for his fellow men and thought they should get decent wages,” his wife, MaryAnn, said.

Members continued to return him to office, and management respected him.

“Integrity was his suit. If John said it, that's what John did,” Robert Seeger, retired chairman of GEM Industrial and retired vice president of Rudolph/Libbe Cos., said. “It was a pleasure to deal with him. He was a good, hard bargainer.”

Mr. Kasap began Local 55's apprenticeship program in the late 1950s, concerned that novice ironworkers learned their trade only on the job.

He put together a curriculum and even had a stainless steel model derrick “so young guys could see what to expect in the field,” his wife said.

The program won the support of management too, said Mr. Seeger, who formerly was on the apprenticeship program's board.

“With trained personnel, you have the opportunity to do a better job,” he said.

Mr. Kasap retired in the early 1980s.

He grew up in the Birmingham neighborhood of East Toledo and was a graduate of Waite High School. He attended the University of Toledo.

As a young man, he often was in charge of taking Teresa Brewer, his soon-to-be-famous niece and the daughter of his sister, Helen, to her singing and dancing performances in the Toledo area and in Detroit.

Mr. Kapas liked to travel and to fish. He and his wife spent winters traveling Florida in retirement.

Surviving are his wife, MaryAnn, whom he married Sept. 10, 1945; daughters, Patricia Kasap, Treza Dickson, and Suzanne Kasap; sister, Ann Kasap, and three grandchildren.

There will be no visitation. Memorial services will be at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Maison-Dardenne-Walker Mortuary.

The family requests tributes to the Salvation Army, the Cherry Street Mission, or the Central Catholic High School student scholarship fund.



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