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Published: Saturday, 10/23/2004

Veteran bricklayer was union stalwart, Seabee in WW II

Neil Bissonnette, 83, a union bricklayer for 60 years who closed his career as business agent for his local, died from complications of congestive heart failure Monday in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township.

Mr. Bissonnette, of West Toledo, was a member of Local 3, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers. He worked for such contractors as Rudolph Libbe Inc. on commercial buildings. His jobs included such prominent projects as the Community Services Building in downtown Toledo and Flower Hospital in Sylvania. Building glass furnaces for Owens-Illinois Inc. was a frequent assignment.

"He just liked working with his hands," his daughter, Susan Beard, said.

The work often was seasonal. During winters without work, the grocery store kept an account that he paid as he could, his daughter said. But if weather conditions allowed brick to be laid and there was a job, "he was there working," his daughter said.

Mr. Bissonnette was Local 3 business agent from 1980 to 1983, when he retired.

"He was a diehard union person," his daughter said. "If you wanted to raise his dander, you had to criticize the union."

Born in Detroit, Mr. Bissonnette was a child when he moved with his family to the Toledo area. He attended the former Burnham High School and Whitmer High School, but left in the 12th grade to become a bricklayer apprentice.

He was a Navy veteran of World War II and, as a Seabee, worked on a hospital in Guam and on projects in the Philippines and Hawaii.

The week before he died, he received his 60-year membership pin from VFW Post 606, of which his father, Aury, was a charter member. Mr. Bissonnette also was a member of the Conn-Weissenberger American Legion Post.

He was a member of Robinson Locke Lodge, F&AM, and was presiding officer of all four York Rite bodies, his daughter said.

Surviving are his wife, Ethel, whom he married Dec. 8, 1945; daughters, Susan Beard, Sandra Bondy, Denise Mack, and Michele Beck; son, Neil G. Bissonnette; sister, Rita M. Liacopoulos; 12 grandchildren, and a great-grandson.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in the Reeb Mortuary, Sylvania, where the body will be after 2 p.m. tomorrow. Masonic services will be at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the mortuary. The family suggests tributes to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio or the Lutheran Church of Our Saviour, of which he was a charter member.

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