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Published: Saturday, 7/19/2008

Aviation executive started his career at Libbey-Owens-Ford

Joseph J. Solomon, Sr., 84, who spent his career in aviation, from aircraft maintenance for Libbey-Owens-Ford to executive vice president of Cessna Aircraft Co., died Thursday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township, of heart-related problems.

He retired in the early 1990s from Cessna in Wichita, Kan., and lived in Columbus for a few years as a consultant to NetJets Aviation Inc.

Most recently, he and his wife, Lucille, lived in Perrysburg.

Mr. Solomon attended the Pittsburgh School of Aeronautics and in 1951 was hired by the former L-O-F as superintendent of aircraft maintenance, a post he held until the Rossford-based glass company ceased flight operations in 1964.

He was right at home when he was hired in 1965 by National Flight Services as general manager of its new general aviation service facility at Toledo Express Airport: National Flight had taken over L-O-F's hangar.

He was a licensed pilot and also supervised National's flight-training and rental department. By 1968, he was vice president of operations.

"He liked to fly himself, and he liked the people in the aviation industry," his daughter, Martha Richards, said.

He became vice president and general manager about 1970 of a distributorship of Beechcraft airplanes, AirKaman, Inc., in Omaha, but returned to northwest Ohio about four years later as general manager of Rittenhouse Motors in Maumee.

"I guess he just had the itch for the aviation industry," his daughter said.

He was hired by Cessna as service operations manager and was promoted through

the ranks.

"Cessna was a big challenge for him," his daughter said. "He was a real people person, and he was the kind of manager everyone loved. He'd walk through the factory, and he knew everybody's name. He worked very hard."

He liked to travel, and his job took him around the world.

"When he retired, well-wishers and friends from all over the world came and sent him stuff," his daughter said.

He stopped piloting planes at 80. In retirement, he spent time with his grandchildren and attended their activities. He also belonged to a fraternal group of retired pilots and went to their monthly lunch.

"He was a big guy with a big heart," his daughter said. "He was a very good businessman and a decent human being. He was a guy you could not help but like."

Mr. Solomon grew up in southwest Pennsylvania and was a 1941 graduate of Hurst High School in Norvelt, Pa.

He was in the Coast Guard during World War II and served in the Pacific Theater. He was 6 feet, 4 inches tall and played semiprofessional basketball in New York City after the war.

Surviving are his wife, Lucille, whom he married Sept. 12, 1952; daughter, Martha Richards; son, Joseph, Jr.; brother, Richard Solomon; sisters, Margaret Yucas and Mary Ann Raishart, and six grandchildren.

The body will be in the Witzler-Shank Funeral Home, Perrysburg, after 2 p.m. Monday. Services will be at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday in St. Rose Church, Perrysburg, where he was a member.

The family suggests tributes to the American Heart Association or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

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