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Published: Wednesday, 6/18/2008

Defiance contractor was avid fan of auto racing

DEFIANCE - William Rath, 55, former owner of a local transportation construction company, died from complications of diabetes yesterday in his home in Defiance.

Mr. Rath worked 30 years at Fort Defiance Construction & Supply, which primarily builds highways and bridges for the Ohio Department of Transportation, his sister Barb Rath said.

He and his two brothers, Mike and Chris, took over the family-owned company in 1991.

Billy Rath was born in Defiance June 3, 1953. He was introduced to construction work as a child, when his father and uncle ran Fort Defiance Construction.

After graduating from Tinora High School in 1971, Mr. Rath joined the family business. He loved operating the loader, bulldozer, and excavator, his daughter, Jamie Calhoun, said.

In 2001, Mr. Rath was forced to retire because of diabetes.

"It was real hard for him," Ms. Calhoun said. Construction "was his whole life."

Relatives said Mr. Rath remained positive in spite of his illness, which ultimately claimed both his legs and one of his arms. He continued to visit the company's construction sites and wanted to learn to operate construction equipment with a prosthesis.

Family members said Mr. Rath had many friends and was quick to offer his home and money to people in need. "He was a people person," Ms. Rath said. "There were no strangers to him."

Mr. Rath frequently took his friends out to breakfast at Kissner's, a restaurant in downtown Defiance, his sister, Sara Varner, said.

Mr. Rath, an avid car racing fan, also continued to travel to Michigan, Kentucky, and Illinois to attend races. His favorite driver was Sam Hornish, Jr., a Defiance native.

Surviving are his daughter, Jamie Calhoun; son, Jonathan Rath; mother, Patricia Rath; sisters, Barb Rath, Sara Varner, and Jenny Horvath; brothers, Mike and Chris Rath, and three grandchildren.

Visitation will be after 6 p.m. today at the Mast-Mock-Hoffman-Hanenkrath-Clevenger-Schaffer Funeral Home, Defiance. Services will be at noon Friday at St. John Catholic Church, Defiance.

The family suggests tributes to St. John Catholic Church, the American Diabetes Association, or the Sam Hornish Family Heart Center Fund at Defiance Regional Medical Center.

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