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Published: Wednesday, 4/9/2003

Oregon plumber, pipefitter liked theater, reading

Irving E. Sanks, who worked at oil refineries, nuclear power plants, and even ice cream factories during decades as a union pipefitter and plumber, died Sunday in St. Luke's Hospital. He was 84.

He had asbestosis, an upper respiratory infection, and a heart condition, his daughter Teresa Gocsik said.

Mr. Sanks of Oregon retired in 1984 from Local 50, Plumbers and Steamfitters. His assignments included Davis-Besse and Fermi II plants and area oil refineries.

“That was the kind of work he liked,” his wife, Joan Breier-Sanks, said. “The more treacherous it was, the more he liked it.

“He liked the idea that he was building something that was not done before. He liked the challenge of whatever was before him.”

He helped build St. Luke's, and he worked on high-rise office buildings. A call to work at an ice cream factory meant that “he'd bring home all the melted ice cream,” his daughter said. “That was my favorite.”

Mr. Sanks was a graduate of Clay High School and a World War II veteran of the Army Air Corps stationed stateside.

Before he lost his eyesight, he read at least three books a week, and he made himself familiar with the works of Shakespeare.

“He was interested in everything. He was a fantastic theatergoer,” his wife said.

He was a board member of the community theater group in Oregon, built sets for productions, and performed in the musicals Carousel and Damn Yankees. He sang in the chorus of the Toledo Opera and sang bass in the Velvetone Choraliers.

He formerly volunteered at Raymer Elementary School and with the Toledo Public Schools' Horizons program for gifted and talented pupils.

Mr. Sanks and his wife enjoyed traveling - they'd been to Europe, Mexico, and on Caribbean cruises - and he did the plumbing and wiring on a house they build near Asheville, N.C.

“He had a lot of adventures,” his wife said.

Surviving are his wife of 16 years, Joan Breier-Sanks; sons, Douglas and David Sanks; daughters, Mary Graham, Kathleen Sanks, and Teresa Gocsik; stepsons, Gary, Gregory, and Rick Breier; sisters, Helen Brower and Virginia Keller; 11 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. today in First St. Mark's Lutheran Church, of which he was a member. Arrangements are by the Eggleston-Meinert Mortuary, Coy Road Chapel.

The family requests tributes to the music departments of Clay or Cardinal Stritch high schools.

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