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Published: Tuesday, 7/15/2008

PR agency founder had a literary flair

Philip Luetke, 85, who owned a public relations firm in downtown Toledo and was passionate about journalism, died of congestive heart failure Sunday in the Lutheran Village at Wolf Creek.

Mr. Luetke founded his own advertising and public relations business, Luetke & Associates, in 1954. He remained at the helm of the company for over 30 years.

Before launching Luetke & Associates, Mr. Luetke worked at the public relations firm Flournoy & Gibbs, where he began in 1951.

"He was an easygoing person," said his close friend, Jim Gilbert, whose company Gilbert Mail Service did business with Flournoy & Gibbs. "He really knew how to work with people."

Mr. Luetke ultimately left Flournoy & Gibbs to cultivate a business that focused more on writing and developing literature for companies. His love of writing far surpassed his affinity for the corporate world, his son Mark said.

Throughout school, Mr. Luetke was drawn to literary and journalistic pursuits. His first foray into journalism was at Libbey High School, when a teacher who was impressed by his writing sent him to talk to the school's journalism instructor.

Since Mr. Luetke was the lone boy on the newspaper staff, he became the sports editor as a freshman.

Mr. Luetke went on to major in journalism at the University of Toledo, where he served as editor of The Collegian.

While he was a student, he served as a copy boy for both The Blade and Toledo Times, where he spent late nights running fistfuls of finished copy from editors to the composing room.

In 1943, his education was interrupted when he was drafted to fight in World War II, but he continued to make use of his writing skills: His commanding officer saw he had experience in journalism and recruited him to write letters home to the families of soldiers killed in combat.

When Mr. Luetke returned from the war in 1945, he finished his last year at UT, then took a job as editor of the plant employee newspaper at an Owens-Illinois facility in Bridgeton, N.J.

However, Mr. Luetke soon learned that he did not like spending time away from Toledo. "He loved living [in Toledo], where he knew people and was comfortable," his sister, Mary McGowan, said.

In 1948, his college journalism professor offered him a job as sports information director at UT, where he worked for several years before entering public relations with Flournoy & Gibbs.

He officially retired in 1987, but continued writing and speaking to civic groups about another one of his areas of interest: life in Toledo during the 1920s and 1930s.

He was a lifelong fan of the Toledo Mud Hens and UT Rockets.

Surviving are his wife, Wilma, whom he married in 1946; daughter, Mary Fairlie; sons, Mark and Philip; sister, Mary McGowan; two grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.

Visitation will be after 11 a.m. Thursday at the Foth-Dorfmeyer Funeral Home, where services will be at 1 p.m. Thursday. The family suggests tributes to the University of Toledo Foundation.



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