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Published: Sunday, 3/12/2006

Mechanic was owner of Sylvania gas station

John K. Dawley, 76, an expert mechanic who owned a Sylvania service station for nearly 20 years and who collected and restored vintage automobiles, died Friday in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township, of kidney failure.

Mr. Dawley, called "Jack" by family and friends, worked at gas stations as a young man and at the DeVilbiss Co. after returning from Army service during the Korean War.

He bought a gas station at Monroe and Summit streets in Sylvania in the early 1950s.

"That was his dream," his wife, Rosemary, said. "He loved to work with cars. It just came natural to him, and his three boys are the same way. They can do anything they set their mind to."

Self-service was unheard of at Dawley's Sohio. Customers had their gasoline pumped, their oil checked. Mr. Dawley serviced and repaired cars.

"He thought it's terrible that women have to pump their own gas," his wife said. "He was very old-fashioned."

On his birthday in 1972, Sohio told him that it wouldn't renew his lease. Later that day, a neighbor who worked at DeVilbiss told Mr. Dawley that he could come back to the plant, his wife recalled.

Mr. Dawley worked at DeVilbiss for 15 years, retiring in 1987.

He collected vintage cars - the Model A was his favorite - but some finds required extensive mechanical and body work. The previous owner of one vehicle turned over some of its pieces in baskets.

"But he got it all together, and it turned out to be a pretty car," his wife said.

He displayed his classic cars at collectors' shows and, with his grandchildren as passengers, drove them in Sylvania Memorial Day parades.

Mr. Dawley also had an artistic side and he liked the detail involved in making porcelain dolls and birds, said his wife, who taught crafts and painting.

For several years in retirement, the couple spent several months each winter in Winter Haven, Fla.

Mr. Dawley grew up near Detroit and Maplewood avenues. The family moved to Sylvania in 1940, and he was a graduate of the former Burnham High School. He became a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in 1970.

"I never heard him say a swear word in his life," his wife said. She was 7 and he was 10 when they met. "He was a good Christian guy."

Surviving are his wife, Rosemary, whom he married Dec. 28, 1951; sons, John, Jr., Brian, and Terry; sister, Bartha Van Vlerah, and four grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in the Newcomer Funeral Home, where the body will be after 2 p.m. today.

The family suggests tributes to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

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