John Paul Stozich, a former Findlay mayor and a state representative whose political career stretched more than 20 years, died yesterday of liver problems at the Blanchard Valley Regional Health Center in Findlay. He was 77.
A Republican and well-known high school teacher-coach, Mr. Stozich was so popular locally that he swept 66.9 percent of Findlay's primary vote for mayor in 1995 against an incumbent. Seven months later, in the general election, he triumphed over his Democratic opponent with 78 percent of the vote.
Serving in the Ohio House from 1983-1991, Mr. Stozich was appointed by Gov. George Voinovich to head the state's Department of Industrial Relations, a title he held until 1995.
Working in recent years alongside Gov. Bob Taft, Mr. Stozich ventured to Germany and Japan to attract foreign businesses to Ohio, while helping develop water and sewer upgrade projects in Findlay.
"He was a winner, a go-getter," said his son, John. "He always tried to get the best out of everything. He was just so much into people."
Despite his political successes, Mr. Stozich was more interested in inspiring people than bragging, friends recalled.
"You wouldn't immediately recognize that he had any great accolades; you'd just find yourself in a chat with him," said Frank Guglielmi, a close friend and businessman who served with him on several local committees. "He was a man of a thousand simple acts of kindness."
It was therefore devastating for Mr. Stozich, two weeks after leaving the mayor's office for the last time earlier this year, he ran a stop sign and killed a 35-year-old nursing home director, friends said. He pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter in Tiffin Municipal Court four months after the Jan. 16 accident.
"It took a terrible toll on him, not only physically, but emotionally," Mr. Guglielmi said.
Mr. Stozich coached basketball and baseball at Uhrichsville High School in east central Ohio, and helped coach football and track while teaching algebra, geometry, and advanced algebra. He took a job in 1964 at Findlay High School, where he was a teacher, basketball coach, and assistant principal. He retired from the high school in 1981. His overall basketball record was 357-210. His success earned him coach of the year honors several times and induction into the Hancock County sports hall of fame.
As a teacher, Mr. Stozich held certifications in social studies, English, math, drivers education, and history, as well as a principal's certificate. He earned a master's in education from Bowling Green State University in 1970, and continued his education with graduate work at Akron University and West Virginia University. In 2003, he earned an honorary doctorate of public administration from the University of Findlay.
Mr. Stozich served in the Navy from 1945-46, and later in the Coast Guard Reserves, where he retired a captain.
He was a member of the board of trustees of Blanchard Valley Hospital and served on the Hancock County Crippled Children's Board. He was active with the local Kiwanis, the Hancock County Farm Bureau, and a number of other local organizations.
Survivors include his second wife, Nancy K. Brobst; son, John M. Stozich; daughters, Judy Scrimshaw and Francie Ash; stepson, Mike Brobst; stepdaughter, Sheryl Yoder; sister, Veronica "Peggy" Fonow, and eight grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 1 to 3 and 5 to 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Coldren-Crates Funeral Home, Findlay. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church.
The family suggests tributes to the John P. Stozich Memorial Scholarship Fund, the Bridge Home Health Hospice, or the church.