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Published: Saturday, 12/22/2001

Ohio educator respected for firm, fair demeanor

FINDLAY - Lester Latta, a superintendent in several Ohio school systems, died of a lung illness Thursday in the Blanchard Valley Regional Health Care Center here. He was 79.

Mr. Latta, of Findlay, graduated from McComb High School in 1940 and received a bachelor's degree from the former Findlay College, where he was on the wrestling team. He received a master's degree in education from Bowling Green State University, where he did some doctoral work in education.

He was superintendent of five school systems around Ohio from 1947 to 1967. He began in Quincy and later was superintendent in Iberia, Ohio City schools in Liberty, Leipsic schools, and Hicksville Exempted Village schools.

Mr. Latta organized a bilingual education program in the Leipsic schools for the children of migrant workers, his daughter, Gloria Simon, said. He helped recruit teachers for the effort.

He was always willing to lend a hand. His daughter recalled that Mr. Latta helped the janitor at Ohio City schools paint a school building over the summer.

Mr. Latta served on the Hicksville school board and the board of Four County Vocational School.

“He was firm, but fair,” the Rev. Lynn McCormack, a longtime friend, said. “He was held in high regard by the vast majority of the community.”

Mr. Latta was in the U.S. Army during World War II. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He received four Bronze Stars.

Mr. Latta was a member of several community organizations, including the Ottawa Blue Lodge, Zenobia Shrine Club of Toledo, Scottish Rite, Toledo, and Findlay American Legion Post 3. He was a past president of Hicksville Rotary Club and served as national and international scholarship chairman for the Holiday Ramblers Association.

He volunteered for the Blanchard Valley Regional Health Care Center and organized outings for a senior citizens group in Fostoria.

Mr. Latta married Virginia Semler in 1943. She died in 1983. He then married Bernice Went.

Surviving are his wife, Bernice; son, Jerry; daughter, Gloria Jeanne Simon; stepdaughters, Darlene Baumlein and Kay Lambert; brother, Delbert Latta, who was Ohio's 5th District congressman from 1959 until 1989; sisters, Hilda Smith, Corrine Harden, and Marcella George, four grandchildren, six step-grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and six step-great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 2 p.m. tomorrow in the Hartley Funeral Home, McComb, Ohio, where the body will be after 2 p.m. today, with a Masonic service at 6:30 tonight.

The family requests tributes to the McComb Church of Christ.

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