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Published: Sunday, 7/6/2008

Toledo lawyer took active role in civic causes

William J. Syring, 90, a Toledo lawyer in practice for a half-century who ran for City Council and the Ohio Court of Appeals, died Friday in Sunset House of respiratory failure.

Formerly of West Toledo, he moved to Sunset House three years ago because of vascular dementia, his wife, Patricia, said.

He retired about 10 years ago from his practice, which he began in 1948 after serving two years as counsel for the Federal Power Commission in Washington.

"He was always a great one for wanting to help others, especially those who couldn't afford it or didn't know the right channels to go through," his wife said.

Mr. Syring had a general law practice, handling small business, probate, real estate, and personal injury cases.

His son, Paul, first practiced law with his father, and it left "an indelible mark on my career. It was a wonderful experience. He was calm, a constant student of the law."

Mr. Syring believed that to build a case, a lawyer must get out and talk to people and investigate, much as a detective would do.

"He taught me you don't practice law sitting behind your desk and answering the phone," said his son, a senior attorney with the City of Toledo Law Department, where he has been since 1999. "I learned more from him probably than I did in law school.

"He was a representative of the golden age of the practice of law in Toledo. He showed me it's priceless to prepare, and he was always prepared."

Mr. Syring ran in 1982 for the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals, and he campaigned at diners and fairs through the eight counties of the district.

"He was a great communicator, a great trial lawyer, [and] thrived in the courtroom," his son said.

Mr. Syring was defeated by Judge Peter Handwork, who remains on the bench.

Early in his career, he ran unsuccessfully for City Council twice, in 1953 and 1956.

He was long active in civic causes. Mr. Syring was a member of the Board of Community Relations in the 1950s and he was a trustee of the Model Cities Agency in the 1960s. He was a member of the Interfaith Conference on Religion and Race and of the NAACP.

He was a past president of the Toledo Trial Lawyers Association and was a member of the Toledo Legal Aid Society. He formerly was on the executive committee of the Lucas County Democratic Party.

Mr. Syring was on the Ohio Board of Bar Examiners for two terms.

He was also a member of Gesu Church.

Mr. Syring was a graduate of St. John's High School when it was in North Toledo. He received bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Notre Dame. He later received a master of laws degree from Catholic University of America in Washington and attended University of Toledo and Ohio State University law schools.

An Army veteran of World War II, he was an agent in the Counter Intelligence Corps in Europe.

Surviving are his wife, Patricia Syring, whom he married Oct. 6, 1956; daughters, Julia Syring and Mary Drumm; sons, Patrick, Joseph, John, and Paul Syring, and seven grandchildren.

Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in Gesu Church, where the body will be after 9 a.m. Arrangements are by the Coyle Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to the Basilian Fathers Missions, Sugar Land, Texas.



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