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Published: Friday, 4/22/2005

Plumbing supply executive enjoyed restoring old boats

Richard T. Whitney, 72, who traveled the Midwest as a sales representative and later as president of the plumbing supply firm his father founded, died of pneumonia Wednesday in St. Anne Mercy Hospital.

Mr. Whitney, of Washington Township, had bladder cancer, his daughter, Elizabeth Hafner, said.

He retired about 1996 from Whitney Co., which his father, Floyd, founded in 1936 as a firm representing plumbing supply manufacturers.

Mr. Whitney went to work for his father after graduating from Ohio State University. The firm was based in Cleveland, and Mr. Whitney's sales territory was Columbus.

He became president in 1970 and moved the firm to Toledo because half its business was with Michigan companies.

"Toledo became the center point for the Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana territory," said his son, David, who has been president since Mr. Whitney's retirement.

The firm is now located in Curtice.

Sales did not depend on flash, but on relationships built over 40 years, his son said.

"He was quiet and conservative. He was quick and to the point," his son said. "He was a self-motivated leader."

He had been a commander in the Coast Guard, and his family often called him "Commander," his daughter said.

Born in Chicago, Mr. Whitney grew up in the Cleveland area. Restoring old boats was a hobby that dated from his late teens, when he bought a 14-foot varnished mahogany runabout. Through the years, he had a steel boat and four Chris-Crafts, including a 28-foot cabin cruiser that he put 3,000 hours into restoring.

"The important thing is to enjoy the work, otherwise it won't work out well," he told The Blade in 1988. He sailed his last boat - a 42-footer - up the Atlantic coast from North Carolina via the Hudson River and, eventually, the St. Lawrence Seaway, Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie.

"He liked the old wood boats That was a big deal," his son said. "It was a feeling of bringing back the old days and boats he remembered."

Mr. Whitney was a former trustee of the Western Lake Erie Historical Society and was a member of the River View Yacht Club.

He and his wife, Johanna, married in 1954. She died in July, 2002.

Surviving are his daughter, Elizabeth Hafner; son, David Whitney; five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow in the David R. Jasin Mortuary, where the body will be after 3 p.m. tomorrow.

The family suggests tributes in the names of Richard and Johanna Whitney to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio.



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