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Published: Thursday, 1/13/2005

Founder of local ship-repair firm known for integrity

Henry Merce, Sr., 90, a boilermaker by trade who founded an East Toledo ship repair company that later built ships, died Monday in his Sylvania Township home.

He was in declining health after he fell and broke his neck in August, his son, Henry, Jr., said.

His company, Merce Industries, repaired lake freighters, beginning in about 1960. Deals with the major lines that had vessels plying the Great Lakes - such as Oglebay Norton and Columbia - were consummated with a handshake, his wife, Helen, said.

"He said they were just wonderful in those days," his wife said.

The business was exciting, said his son, who succeeded his father as president of the firm.

"It's very interesting to be around the water, to be repairing the ships, and to meet these very interesting people who work on the ships," his son said. "He formed a very good relationship with the captains and the chief engineers who work on the lakes."

Mr. Merce had a reputation for honesty, integrity, and hard work, and "that's what generated business for him," his son said. "Even though he had a heart attack in 1975 and couldn't work at full speed, because of those characteristics, people still trusted the Merce name and were willing to give us work."

Mr. Merce retired from the business in 1981 as chairman.

Merce Industries, headed by his son, became the operators of the Toledo Shipyard from 1985 to 1991.

"He embraced all of that," his son said. "He was forward thinking and supportive."

Mr. Merce got his start in the late 1930s at the former Price Boiler and Welding on Water Street. As a superintendent at Price from 1955 to 1960, he learned billing procedures and business practices, his son said.

Mr. Merce grew up in the Sylvania area and worked as a youth at Sylvania Country Club.

"He would caddy for the doctors. On Mondays, the caddies could play, and that's where he learned golf," his wife said. He played for about 60 years.

Mr. Merce was a builder in his spare time, too. Projects included two homes, a car, and a boat. He was a woodworker, and he liked to hunt and fish.

He was a member of the Robinson Locke Lodge, F&AM.

Surviving are his wife, Helen, whom he married Oct. 14, 1939; sons, Henry, Jr., and Robert; daughter, Beverly Donovan; six grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 1 p.m. tomorrow in the Ansberg West Mortuary, where the body will be after 11 a.m. tomorrow.

The family suggests tributes to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, the Humane Society, or a charity of the donor's choice.



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