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Published: Thursday, 6/21/2007

DeVilbiss Co. manager was a passionate baseball fan

Bill Ross Avent, 88, a former manager at the DeVilbiss Co. and a baseball enthusiast, died of a stroke Tuesday in the Heartland of Waterville nursing home.

Mr. Avent of Toledo showed passion and dedication in both his career at DeVilbiss and his baseball pursuits.

"He was everybody's support system and mentor," his daughter, Vicki Pack, said.

After spending 43 years at DeVilbiss, Mr. Avent retired in 1983 as a superintendent. He held a number of positions at the company, starting as a dock man in 1940.

"He was extremely dedicated," Mrs. Pack said. "He just rose right up the ranks because of that."

Mr. Avent devoted leisure time to his love of athletics. After playing sports as a boy, Mr. Avent followed his passion into adulthood.

In the 1940s, Mr. Avent played baseball with UAW Local 12, the Old Dutch Beer Ball Club, and the Minor League All Stars. He went on to work with the Pittsburgh Crawfords as a bullpen catcher.

Mr. Avent coached the St. Catherine's baseball team and supported the Toledo Mud Hens and the Detroit Tigers.

His granddaughter, Amy Mergen, said Mr. Avent's athleticism was inspiring.

"Big Papa," as his family called him, would regale his grandchildren with his baseball memories or gather the children for impromptu games.

"He was the eternal coach and optimist," Mrs. Mergen said. "He was the cheerleader in everybody's corner - always there to listen and encourage."

Mr. Avent was a 1938 graduate of Genoa High School. In 1943, he married Alvina Truna, who died in 1976.

Surviving are his daughter, Vicki Pack; son, Bill Avent; five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Foth-Dorfmeyer Mortuary, where visitation will be after 2 p.m. tomorrow. The family suggests tributes to St. Paul's Respite Care or St. Rose Catholic Church in Perrysburg.

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