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Published: Thursday, 10/7/2004

Blade manager oversaw nightly production task

Thomas E. Ostertag, 66, retired night production manager of The Blade, died of cancer Monday at the Lakeland Regional Hospital, Lakeland Fla.

Mr. Ostertag oversaw the departments devoted to the printing of the newspaper, from unloading of the rolls of newsprint to typesetting of news pages and the actual printing in the pressroom.

"He was a good people person, respected by the men, honest, and well liked," John Pellek, The Blade's assistant production manager at night, said.

Mr. Ostertag worked his way up through several departments at the newspaper, beginning as a part-time paperhandler in 1959. He was president of the Paper Handlers Union during the 1960s.

He was named foreman for the paper handlers and later became assistant production manager.

"He enjoyed his work," his wife, June, said. "He worked a lot of nights. That kind of limited our social life. But he said the company was a very good company to work for and he couldn't have asked for a better place to work at."

He bowled in the employee bowling league and attended employee picnics.

Mrs. Ostertag described her husband as a down-to-earth man. "He knew how to ask somebody to do something without just saying, 'Go do it,'‚óŹ" she said.

Diagnosed with cancer, Mr. Ostertag retired because of disability in 1993. The disease went into remission after medical treatment, and he and his wife moved several years later to near Auburndale, Fla.

In the retirement community where they lived, Mr. Ostertag enjoyed grilling steaks, chicken, and ribs for group cookouts.

Beginning in 1998, he began taking the first of upward of a dozen cruise ship voyages.

"What he liked was the total relaxation," his wife said. "You could get up early and go have some coffee. It was the peace and quiet and the new sights to see. We were very blessed to do this because when he had cancer in 1993, the doctors only gave him a year to live."

Born in Jackson, Mich., he lived in Pemberville, Ohio, as a child, later moving to Toledo, where he attended Scott High School.

He enlisted in the Air Force in the mid 1950s, serving in England. He was a manager for a Little League baseball team at Longfellow Elementary School.

Surviving are his wife, June; daughters, Terri Tracy and Ann Walton; son, Charles; brother, Arthur, and eight grandchildren.

Memorial services will be at 11:30 a.m. Friday at Kersey Funeral Home, Auburndale, Fla. The body will be cremated. A memorial service is pending in Toledo.

The family suggests tributes to Good Shepherd Hospice, Auburndale, Fla., or a charity of the donor's choice.

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