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Published: Saturday, 9/13/2003

Teacher, coach ran marathons in his 70s

Albin B. Vaznelis, a teacher and football coach with a mischievous sense of humor who started running marathons at age 70, died of heart failure Thursday in Medical College of Ohio Hospitals. He was 85.

A Toledo resident, Mr. Vaznelis taught in Toledo Public Schools for about 30 years beginning in the mid-1950s.

He taught high school English classes and coached for several schools, including Bowsher, Libbey, the former Macomber Vocational, and Woodward high schools. A former star athlete, Mr. Vaznelis believed that students should push themselves physically and mentally.

“He liked to instill individuality. He was very challenging to students he thought had potential,” his daughter, Antonina Vaznelis, said.

He told funny personal stories in his classes, and often chatted with former students years after they graduated.

Mr. Vaznelis grew up in Connecticut. His parents, who had emigrated from Lithuania, died when he was young, so he lived in an orphanage for most of his childhood.

He and his brother convinced the orphanage's administrators to defy policy and allow them to attend high school, where they both excelled at athletics.

During the Depression, Mr. Vaznelis lived as a hobo, riding railroads all over America. He later served with the Marines in Guam before attending Morehead State Teachers College in Kentucky on an athletic scholarship.

Mr. Vaznelis was a football standout in college, his daughter said. He graduated in 1946 with a bachelor's degree in English and history. He got a master's degree in physical education from Springfield College.

Throughout his life, Mr. Vaznelis was involved in sports. He trained with the Toledo Roadrunners and ran his first marathon at age 70. Three years later, he ran the New York City Marathon.

He also enjoyed golf and taking long walks around town.

Mr. Vaznelis served as a delegate for Jerry Brown at the Democratic National Convention in 1992.

Surviving are his wife, Ruth; son, Albin Edward; daughters, Antonina Vaznelis, Feyadora Tower, Carlvala Fukuzawa, and Joeynell Darnell; brother, Edward; sister, Vi Sadin; six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the Coyle Funeral Home. There will be no visitation. The family requests tributes to the World Wildlife Foundation or Easter Seals.

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