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Published: Sunday, 10/1/2006

Superior Coach exec started on plant floor

LIMA, Ohio - Melvin L. Niece, 87, a retired manager and executive at the former Superior Coach Co. in Lima, died Thursday in the Otterbein-Cridersville Retirement Community, from complications of cancer.

Mr. Niece, who was also a vice president of product planning and development at the former Sheller-Globe Corp. in Toledo, started his career at Superior Coach, once the country's largest maker of school buses, as a factory worker in 1946.

He worked his way into several management positions, rising to vice president of engineering in his 30 years of service to the company, said his son Don Niece.

He went on to become the vice president of product planning and development at Sheller-Globe when the company acquired Superior Coach, retiring from the firm in 1976.

Mr. Niece, who was involved in a number of small businesses here after leaving Sheller-Globe, then joined the former Farmers Banking Co., in Lakeview, Ohio, in 1981. He was the bank's president and was a member of its board of directors until his retirement in 1988.

"He was a very hard-driving man," his son, recalled. "A family man who devoted his life to making sure his family never lacked for anything, as he had when he was growing up during the Great Depression."

Born in St. Paris, Ohio, he grew up in Lakeview, a small village in the northwestern corner of Logan County. He graduated from Stokes Local High School and attended Springfield Business School in Springfield, Ohio, before enlisting in the Navy during World War II.

A radar man on Landing Ship Tanks that hauled heavy equipment for the military, Mr. Niece served on vessels in the Mediterranean Theatre from 1944 to 1945.

He married the former Elizabeth Coleman on Jan. 15, 1938, and the couple settled in Lakeview, where they made their home for most of their lives.

A former member and president of the Stokes Local Schools and Indian Lake Schools boards of education, both of which he served for about 12 years, Mr. Niece spent much of his retirement "with family and also volunteering to improve education standards in his community," his son said.

"He was very proud of the fact that he had started out as a factory worker and then climbed the corporate ladder," his son recalled. "He was very keen on education and making sure that not only his children, but also children in his community, got the education opportunities that he didn't have when he was growing up."

A longtime member of the Indian Lake Community Church, he served as its board president for many years. In addition, Mr. Niece, a longtime member of the Logan County Republican Century Club, was interested and involved in the economic development of his community.

He served on the Lakeview Improvement Corp. for many years.

A 60-year member of the American Legion, he was a longtime member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge 132, Bellefontaine.

Surviving are his wife, Elizabeth; sons, Lawrence, Ronald, and Don; sister, LaVelva Chandler; brothers, Garnard and Lewis; six grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and three stepgreat-granchildren.

Visitation will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. today in the Sanford-Eichholtz Funeral Home, Lakeview, and an hour prior to the funeral services at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Indian Lake Community Church.

The family suggests tributes to the church's day-care center.



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