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Published: Friday, 3/25/2005

Firefighter was chief for Walbridge, Lake

Donald A. Smothers, 76, a firefighter for more than 50 years who was chief of the Walbridge Fire Department and, later, of the Lake Township Fire Department, died of pancreatic cancer Wednesday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township.

Mr. Smothers retired from the Lake Township department in 1994. He advocated the merger of the former Walbridge and Millbury departments, which took place after voters in November, 1990, approved levies to pay for emergency services. He was put in charge.

He became chief of the Walbridge volunteer fire department in 1972, succeeding longtime Chief Lester "Whitey" Weiker.

Mr. Smothers adapted to changes in firefighting techniques and advances in training. The Walbridge department got a 75-foot aerial truck while he was chief and moved from its old quarters - a cramped station with two 8-feet-wide garage doors - to modern facilities.

"It was all his doing," said Marv Savage, who retired four years ago as Walbridge district chief of the Lake Township Fire Department. "He always looked ahead."

Mr. Smothers also helped the township land full-time paramedic and ambulance service in 1986 through a contract with St. Charles Hospital in Oregon.

Mr. Smothers was 15 and a Walbridge High School student when he was recruited for the Walbridge department.

"That was during the war, and many of the men were off to war, and they didn't have enough people to maintain the department," his wife said.

Mr. Smothers worked at the Libbey-Owens-Ford Co. for 38 years, mostly at the East Broadway facility, as a shipping clerk. He retired in 1985.

Surviving are his wife, Pat, whom he married May 5, 1951; daughter, Sheri Henning; brothers, Robert, Andrew, and James; sister, Norma Lee "Tiz" Williams, and eight grandchildren.

The body will be in the Witzler-Shank Mortuary, Walbridge, after 6 p.m. Sunday, with a firefighters service at 7 p.m. Monday in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday in St. Jerome Church, Walbridge, of which he was a longtime member.

The family suggests tributes to the Lake Township Fire Department station 1 memorial fund; the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, or St. Jerome Church.

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