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Published: Tuesday, 5/7/2002

Truck driver was mayor in Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Ohio - Donald Joe Thiebaut, a local truck driver who was mayor for four years starting in 1996 and a councilman for two years before that, died yesterday in Wood County Hospital, Bowling Green. He was 51.

Sean Thiebaut, his son, said an autopsy would be performed today, but that a heart attack was the suspected cause of death.

Mr. Thiebaut graduated from Bowling Green High School and served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.

In 1974, he married Linda MacKenzie, and later that year was discharged from the Marines with the rank of corporal.

During the 24 years that followed, Mr. Thiebaut was a truck driver for Driggs Dairy of Toledo, which changed its name to Country Fresh.

In 1999, the son said, Mr. Thiebaut quit Country Fresh for a change of pace and became a long-haul driver for Bulkmatic Transport, his employer at the time of his death.

For about five years during the 1980s, Mr. Thiebaut was a tactical engineer with the Ohio Air National Guard 180th Fighter Wing at Toledo Express Airport.

Sean Thiebaut said his father joined the Grand Rapids Volunteer Fire Department during the early 1990s and became well known in the community.

As vacancies opened up on local boards, he accepted invitations to fill them, starting out with the swimming pool's board of directors and in 1994, the village council.

Jim Carter, a former mayor who is president of the Wood County Commissioners, said Mr. Thiebaut was a fixture at community events, too.

“If anything needed to be done around town, you'd see him doing it,” Mr. Carter said.

In late 1995, Mr. Thiebaut, a Republican, was elected mayor. Among the highlights of his four-year term, Mr. Carter said, was a controversial decision to phase out the village's small police department in favor of having Wood County sheriff's deputies patrol.

Sean Thiebaut said his father did not seek re-election because of his job change in 1999, which left him with less time at home to attend to community business. He also resigned from the fire department, which he had served as secretary in 1999.

Surviving are his wife of nearly 28 years, Linda; son, Sean; daughter, Christina Crill; sister, Renee Lay, and brothers, Vern and Paul.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday in the Wright Funeral Home, Grand Rapids, where the body will be after 2 p.m. tomorrow.

A last alarm service by the Grand Rapids Volunteer Fire Department will begin at 7 p.m. in the mortuary.

The family requests tributes to the Grand Rapids area swimming pool or to the Town Hall Board of Control.

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