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Published: Wednesday, 7/9/2003

Dana worker served as township fire chief

Carl J. Melms, 79, a retired general foreman at Dana Corp.'s former Spicer Transmission plant and a fire chief in Washington Township, died Monday of apparent kidney failure at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

Mr. Melms began as a machine operator at the old Dana transmission plant on Bennett Road and, in his 25 years with the company, became a foreman and general foreman. He retired in 1986 as the company scaled back production there.

He was vice president of the former Blain Driveaway System, Inc., an auto transport company that trucked Jeeps and Willys cars from local assembly plants to dealers.

As a young man, Mr. Melms had other interests beyond his full-time job. Shortly after World War II, he formed Carl Melms and the Knights of Rhythm, a 15-piece band that played for several years at the Reno Beach Pavilion.

He had quite literally been a musical standout while a student at Waite High School: He was a drum major of the school's marching band, graduating in 1942.

“He was one of the tallest drum majors in the city at the time,” said his son, Michael. “With his tall hat on, he was over seven feet tall.”

Mr. Melms also was a fire chief of what was then the Alexis Place Fire Department, one of three that served Washington Township before large sections of it were annexed to Toledo.

He was a member of the department about 15 years beginning in the early 1950s, including service when the Palm Sunday tornadoes tore through the Toledo area in 1965, killing 16 people.

“It went right through there,” his son said. “It went across Glass City Lanes, ... then out to Point Place.”

In his spare time, he enjoyed fishing and camping.

A family tradition he insisted upon keeping was taking the family camping on Easter weekend, regardless of weather conditions.

“Everybody went,” his son said. “It could be cold and foggy, but everybody went.”

Mr. Melms was a member of the Alexis Road Congregational Church, where he was a deacon. He was an army veteran of World War II.

His wife, Patsy, died in 1990.

Surviving are his sons, Melvin, Michael, and Richard; sister, Norma Fleming; 12 children, and 17 great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Boyer-Van Wormer-Scott Funeral Home, where the body will be after 2 p.m. tomorrow.

The family requests tributes to a charity of the donor's choice.



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