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Published: Wednesday, 4/13/2005

Mason's unnamed firm built postwar housing

Donald E. Halbert, 88, a bricklayer with his own masonry business who worked on subdivisions throughout northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan during the post-World War II building boom, died Saturday in Lake Park care center, Sylvania, from complications of heart failure and strokes.

Mr. Halbert, of West Toledo, didn't give a name to the business he began in about 1952 after completing a bricklaying apprenticeship.

"He just got a mixer and his trowel, and he had a couple contacts, and he started doing small jobs and worked his way along," his son David said.

Home builders got to know him. "He struck up a relationship with them, and they'd call him on a subcontract basis, and he'd do work for them," his son said. "He didn't really promote himself. He just went along and got word-of-mouth."

At the peak of his business, he employed five union masons and two tenders year-round.

"He was a very precise person. You could talk to the people he contracted for, and his job sites were always clean, and he took pride in that," his son said.

Mr. Halbert was modest and shy, his son said. Even family members had to nudge him before he'd take them to see completed jobs.

"A couple times he'd say, 'That's a good job. That looks nice,'‚óŹ" his son recalled.

Mr. Halbert had his own business until 1970, when he took jobs with large construction firms. He worked mostly on commercial and industrial projects in the decade before his retirement in 1980.

Mr. Halbert was born on a farm in western Lucas County and was a graduate of Perrysburg High School. He worked on the family farm for several years after. He then became a mason tender and began a bricklaying apprenticeship.

He was drafted into the Army during World War II and became a master sergeant in the Signal Corps. He landed at Utah Beach and advanced with Allied forces through France into Germany. His duty was to keep the Supreme Allied Command and Gen. Dwight Eisenhower informed of the progress of Allied forces, his son said.

Mr. Halbert was a member of Conn-Weissenberger American Legion Post and of Collingwood Lodge, F&AM, and the Zenobia Shrine.

He and his first wife, Nellie Webley, married in October, 1942. She died in March, 1972. He married Rita "Robin" Hirt in 1974. She died in May, 1998.

With his wife, Robin, he returned to Normandy and visited Australia and Jerusalem.

Surviving are his sons, Donald, David, and Daniel Halbert; daughters, Patricia Wilson and Kathleen Manol; stepsons, Reynold and Kennard Hirt; 10 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

The body will be in the Boyer VanWormer Scott Mortuary after 2 p.m. tomorrow, with Masonic services at 7:30 p.m. in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the Boyer VanWormer Scott Mortuary . The family suggests tributes to the Shriners Hospitals for Children.



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