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Published: Friday, 9/22/2006

Capping machine ace at O-I ran firm testing packing gear

Thomas M. McDevitt, 70, a welder by trade who became an expert in bottle and jar capping machines at Owens-Illinois Inc. and, later, founded a business that makes testing equipment for the packaging industry, died of a heart attack Wednesday in his home at Coldwater Lake, Mich., where he moved in retirement.

Mr. McDevitt, formerly of South Toledo, was former owner and president of Secure Pak Inc., which he began in the mid-1980s. The firm's first headquarters-office-shop was the family home, his wife, Janet, said.

"It was him and I at first," said his wife, who was treasurer, bookkeeper, paymaster, and order taker. "Really, he was the backbone of the company."

The firm eventually moved to Maumee. He sold the business and retired in 1998.

He went into business because the division of O-I where he was manager, located in O-I's Duraglas Center at Adams and 14th streets in Toledo, was to be dissolved. He asked O-I whether he could be licensee for equipment that tested capping machines to make sure that caps and lids were not too tight or too loose, his wife said. They negotiated a deal.

He had a history with capping machines.

One of his jobs at O-I was to travel the United States and to Puerto Rico to diagnose and fix problems with the machines.

"He knew his business, and he knew that he could manufacture [the testing equipment] cheaper than a big company would," his wife said. "He knew the customers needed him. He was a risk-taker."

He had patents, through O-I and Secure Pak, for equipment he developed. He received an award for innovative design in the late 1980s from an international packaging show in San Francisco. He was a former nominee for northwest Ohio Entrepreneur of the Year.

Running the company came easy to him, his wife said. He made good choices in hiring employees, and he knew when to hire accountants, attorneys, and other experts.

"He was a very generous, easy-going boss," his wife said. "It came easy to him. He knew how to delegate.

"He didn't put on airs. He wasn't out to impress anybody," she said. "He was compassionate. He was just an all-around good Joe."

Mr. McDevitt grew up in South Toledo and was a graduate of Macomber Vocational High School, where he pursued welding. He was in the Air Force, stationed in North Africa and England.

He worked as a welder until the late 1960s, when he was hired at O-I to grind mirror blanks for telescopes.

Mr. McDevitt and his wife, in retirement, moved to their cottage near Coldwater, Mich. He had a boat and fished. Another retirement pursuit was hunting deer, turkey, squirrel, and rabbit on 78 acres he owned in Hillsdale County, where he put up a pole barn that he used as living quarters and hunting lodge.

He previously coordinated the Beverly Elementary School team in a South Toledo football league. He also was a fund-raiser for the stadium lights project at Bowsher High School.

Surviving are his wife, Janet, whom he married Nov. 17, 1962; son, Kory McDevitt; daughter, Karen Cameron; brothers, Richard and David McDevitt, and three grandsons.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in the Dutcher Funeral Home, Coldwater, Mich., where the body will be after 3 p.m. Sunday.

The family suggests tributes to the Oasis of Love Family Church, Coldwater.


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