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Published: 2/26/2006

Ex-firefighter was fire marshal for events at UT

Alvin J. Urban, 80, a retired Toledo Fire Department lieutenant who became a University of Toledo fire marshal and attended every event at Savage Hall and the Glass Bowl to monitor safety there, died of cancer yesterday in his West Toledo home.

He was UT fire marshal until 2004 when, because of his illness, he decided to retire. For nearly 20 years, he attended home basketball games and concerts and other events at Savage - formerly Centennial - Hall and home football games and events at the Glass Bowl.

The job did not have a regular schedule and could mean several full days in a row during, for instance, high school basketball tournaments. But he had summers off, except for occasional concerts, his daughter Julie Urban said. Plus, because of his years as a firefighter, he was friends with the EMS and safety crews at events.

"He just knew everybody," his daughter said.

Mr. Urban was a Toledo firefighter for about 33 years, retiring Nov. 1, 1985 as a lieutenant at No. 25 station. He was assigned to downtown and West Toledo stations through his career.

"He was a good firefighter," said retired Assistant Fire Chief Robert Schwanzl, who knew Mr. Urban for more than 50 years. "He was very well respected by the people he worked with. When he became an officer, he was very well liked by his crews. He was a pretty down-to-earth guy and kind of a no-nonsense guy and at the same time an individual you could have some fun with. He was a peach of a fellow."

When at a fire, he knew what was going on, and "he had a calming effect on people," Chief Schwanzl said. "He was very dependable."

Mr. Urban didn't speak much of his job at home. He didn't want his wife to worry. In later years, he told some stories - "good fun stories," his daughter recalled, "stories of camaraderie and funny things that happened with crew members."

He worked a 24-hour shift every third day. For most of his career, he was a shipping foreman the other days at Cameo Inc., a Toledo company that made Smartee nail polish.

"He was always a worker. I don't think he could imagine not working," his daughter said.

That's where he met his wife, Helen, who was filling nail polish bottles and affixing labels.

Even his leisure time was active. He golfed and bowled. He walked Westfield Franklin Park, where he developed a network of friends, and exercised at 21st Century Health Spa, where he also had friends. He visited his grandchildren's dance recitals and hockey, baseball, and softball games.

Mr. Urban grew up on Yates Street in North Toledo and attended Central Catholic High School.

He joined the Navy during World War II and, while based in Hawaii, was an aerial photographer of enemy-controlled territory.

Surviving are his wife, Helen, whom he married April 7, 1951; daughters, Susan Matthews, Katherine Kronbach, and Julie Urban; sons, Michael and Robert Urban; brother, Victor Urban; sister, Zita Vollmar, and four grandchildren.

The body will be in the Walker Funeral Home after 2 p.m. tomorrow, with a Last Alarm Service at 7 p.m. tomorrow and a recitation of the Rosary at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow in the mortuary.

Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday in St. Clement Church, of which he was a longtime member.

The family suggests tributes to the Toledo Firefighters Museum.



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