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Published: Tuesday, 5/7/2002

Retiree served Lucas County as its coroner

Dr. Harry F. Mignerey, a former Lucas County coroner and Toledo family physician, died April 21 in a nursing home in Pensacola, Fla. He was 86.

Family members did not know the exact cause of death, but Dr. Mignerey had Alzheimer's disease, they said.

The doctor grew up in Stryker, Ohio, and received his medical degree from Case Western Reserve University Medical College. He served in World War II and was in charge of a hospital at Camp Crowder in Missouri during the Korean War.

Dr. Mignerey served as Lucas County's deputy coroner from 1956 to 1960 and as coroner from 1960 to 1984. His son, Dr. Thomas G. Mignerey, said his father enjoyed his years as coroner.

“It was probably the intrigue of coming up with the right answer. He got good at it,” his son said.

A Republican, he remained in office more than two decades, usually running unopposed.

He told The Blade in 1993 that he investigated a wide range of deaths in his 28 years in the coroner's office and considered his proudest accomplishment that of getting the county morgue established in 1978.

One of his highest-profile cases was that of his ruling that the 1971 death of a nun was a suicide. The nun had drowned after her car went off the end of a road near downtown Toledo into the Maumee River.

Sister Mary Baptist, 60, had served as an administrator at St. Charles Hospital and at the time of her death was administrator of Madonna Homes, a senior citizens housing project.

A Blade investigation published in 1972 neither confirmed nor contradicted the coroner's ruling.

Dr. Mignerey told The Blade in 1993 that the case “was the hardest decision I ever made, but the facts were there, and when you put it all together, there could be no other verdict. I don't dwell on it.”

Dr. James Patrick, who succeeded Dr. Mignerey as coroner, said his predecessor took great strides in modernizing his department's operations.

He persuaded the county commissioners to provide separate facilities for autopsies and investigations and hired the department's first investigator and forensic pathologists. Autopsies previously had been performed at local hospitals, Dr. Patrick said.

“He took the [office] from the Middle Ages to the modern era,” Dr. Patrick said, adding later: “He was a pleasant guy with a good sense of humor, and he was very knowledgeable about the work.”

A former staff member of Toledo, Mercy, Flower, and MCO hospitals, Dr. Mignerey retired from his family practice in 1980 to devote more time to his coroner responsibilities.

In addition to his medical duties, he served on the Washington Local school board from 1965 to 1970.

He and his wife, Ada, had moved to Pensacola from Toledo four years ago to be closer to their son, Thomas, a pediatrician in Pensacola. His son said his father and his mother moved directly to an assisted-living facility in Pensacola. His mother still lives there, but his father moved to a nursing home in February because of complications from Alzheimer's.

He enjoyed gardening and tennis and sang in the Christ Presbyterian Church choir in Sylvania for many years.

Surviving are his wife of 60 years, Ada; son, Dr. Thomas G. Mignerey; daughters, Sue Helsinger and Carol Reynolds; six grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

A memorial service was held April 26 in Pensacola.



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