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Published: Tuesday, 11/18/2003

Edison worker drove trouble truck

GIBSONBURG, Ohio - James E. Freeborn, a former Gibsonburg councilman who worked as a sales manager for Toledo Edison, died Friday at his home. He was 91.

Mr. Freeborn died of heart failure, his son Dick said.

“He just dozed off reading the paper ... and he just never woke up,” Dick Freeborn said.

During more than 42 years with Toledo Edison and a predecessor firm, Lake Erie Power and Light Co., Mr. Freeborn rose from handling service calls to overseeing the utility s sales staff for its eastern district, which ran from Toledo to Vermilion in Erie County.

For years, Mr. Freeborn ran a “trouble truck” for Toledo Edison, working as a mobile repairman who responded to power outages and other service problems. “I used to ride with him on the trouble truck,” Dick Freeborn said. “Any time it rained, we headed for the nearest substation.”

He belonged to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for 50 years, maintaining his membership even after he moved into management, his son said.

Mr. Freeborn used his electrical expertise to help the Gibsonburg school system wire an addition to the high school in the late 1940s, his son said. Later, in the 1950s, he was on the district s building committee during the construction of the former Welter Elementary School, which is now used as part of the high school.

Mr. Freeborn served several terms on Gibsonburg Village Council in the 1940s and 50s and was on the town s board of public affairs for more than a decade in the 1960s and 1970s.

He was a former officer of the Gibsonburg Businessmen s Club and the Gibsonburg Exchange Club and a longtime volunteer for the Boy Scouts as a local and district committeeman for the Toledo Area Council. In 1970, he was honored for his service to the Boy Scouts with the Silver Beaver Medal.

“He was always pretty proud of that,” Dick Freeborn said.

Mr. Freeborn belonged to Trinity Methodist Church, where he served on the board of trustees and the building committee.

Mr. Freeborn was born in Fireside, Ohio, on Aug. 16, 1912, and graduated from Clyde High School in 1930. He married Dorothy Taylor on May 6, 1936, and she died Feb. 27, 1961. He married Vivian Zeller on Oct. 6, 1962, and she died Feb. 8, 2000.

In 1974, Mr. Freeborn retired from Toledo Edison and moved to Arizona with his second wife.

“After being an electrical worker in the dead of winter for the outages, he never wanted to see another snowflake,” Dick Freeborn said.

But Mr. Freeborn returned to live with his son in Gibsonburg after his second wife died.

He is survived by sons Dick and Roger; stepdaughter Barbara Steurer; nine grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

There will be no services or visitation. The family suggests tributes to the Gibsonburg branch of the Birchard Public Library or the Boy Scouts of America.


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