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Published: Sunday, 8/24/2003

Boilermaker moved up to head 2 firms

Richard A. Lester, a boilermaker who rose through the ranks to become president of two mechanical contracting businesses, died of complications from a hematoma yesterday at the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township. He was 69.

If there was laughter in the air, people knew Mr. Lester was around, his wife, Patricia Lester said.

Mrs. Lester described her husband as a hard-working man who was proud of his accomplishments and enjoyed his time with family and friends.

“He lived life to the fullest,” she said. “At one time, he was the best welder in the city and he was proud of that, but he left work at work. He loved to talk and laugh. He knew a little bit of everything.”

Mr. Lester spent a short time in the U.S. Marine Corps and, after graduating from Macomber Vocational High School, became a member of Boilermakers Local 85 in 1951.

He worked at Toledo Tank as a boilermaker and moved up to shop foreman before joining William Ferrel, Inc., a mechanical contractor. From foreman he became a superintendent, and in 1970 was named vice president of the company.

Four years later Mr. Lester was named president, replacing Mr. Ferrel, who became chairman of the board of directors.

“That was probably his proudest accomplishment,” Mrs. Lester said. “He was very generous and always looked out for his employees. His employees were No. 1 with him. He had a loyal group that followed him to every job he went to because they enjoyed working with him.”

In 1983 the company was purchased by a group of investors from Chicago and Mr. Lester stayed on as president for another three years.

“He was disappointed [about the sale], but knew it had to be done,” Mrs. Lester said. “He decided to stay on because he wanted to watch out for his employees.”

Mr. Lester and other investors started Great Lakes Industrial Contracting in 1986 with Mr. Lester as president. The company was later sold, but Mr. Lester stayed on as president and the name was changed to RMF Industrial Contracting.

“He was a little apprehensive about starting his own company, but there was something exciting about it as well,” Mrs. Lester said. “Once word of mouth got out that Richard was president and by this time he has such a reputation in mechanical consulting circles ... things were fine.”

Mr. Lester retired in 1998 to spend more time with family and to take up fishing and golf. He was associated with the Damascus Lodge No. 643 Masons and the Zenobia Shrine's patrol unit and the Royal Order of Jesters Court. He was a member of the Maumee American Legion, the Maumee Veterans of Foreign War, and the Toledo Rockets Downtown Association.

Surviving are his wife, Patricia; daughters, Marie Micel, Beverly Williams, and Cher Horner; stepdaughters, Denise Rager, Doreen Bucher, and Tricia Nicholls; five grandchildren, four step-grandchildren, and a great-grandson.

Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the Walter Funeral Home, where the body will be after 7 p.m. Tuesday, with Masonic services at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The family suggests tributes to the Zenobia Shrine Transportation Fund or the Hospice of Northwest Ohio in Perrysburg Township.

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