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Published: Wednesday, 12/10/2008

Electric Co. president known for OSU loyalty

Richard M. Poll, 84, president and chief salesman of the former H. Poll Electric Co. known for his ardent support of Ohio State football, died Saturday in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township.

He had been in declining health after breaking a hip in October, his son Peter said.

Mr. Poll, of Perrysburg Township, retired in 1988 from the business his father, Henry, founded in 1919.

The firm was a wholesale distributor of electrical products and automation components. He started there in the late 1940s and for years was the vice president. He became president when his brother, Alonzo "Lon" Poll, retired from the post in 1979.

"He was all sales. That was his forte," his brother said. "He did a wonderful job. He had a knack for being a good salesman, and he followed through.

"He worked at it, and he didn't just deal with the customer," his brother said. "He ended up knowing whole families and went hunting and fishing and everything else [with them]."

The company at one time had branches in Findlay, Defiance, and Sandusky, and also did business in southeast Michigan. Clients included Toledo Edison, Owens Illinois, and Sun Oil.

"He wanted to be the best, and he was," his son said.

The company closed in July.

After retiring from the family firm, Mr. Poll worked for Deco Electric Supply in Toledo until he was in his late 70s, his son said.

Mr. Poll was an alumnus and supporter of the University of Toledo, family members said. But along the way, he became a big fan of Ohio State football. The company's building on North St. Clair Street sported Ohio State colors. He took his sons to games. He'd take 100 or more customers to Ann Arbor when his team met arch rival University of Michigan.

He and friend Harold Behm, a UM fan, had a tradition that began in the 1960s: On the Friday before the big game, the supporter of the previous year's losing team had to take the winner to lunch at Dyer's Chop House.

The catch was that the loser chose the mode of transport for getting the winner to lunch, and the spectacle often stopped traffic. One year, Mr. Poll pushed Mr. Behm in a wheelbarrow down Superior Street to the restaurant. Another, Mr. Poll was at the wheel of a car pulling a trailer with a portable toilet, with Mr. Behm aboard.

Mr. Poll believed people along the Ohio-Michigan line "have more reason to be Ohio [State] fans than the people down in Columbus," he told The Blade in 1985. "I tell them they don't even know what the rivalry is until they've lived up here."

Mr. Poll was a graduate of Scott High School.

Surviving are his wife, Suzanne, whom he married in 1948; sons, Charles, Peter, and Fritz; brother, Alonzo, and 11 grandchildren.

The body will be in the Foth-Dorfmeyer Mortuary after 5 p.m. today. Services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in Collingwood Presbyterian Church, where he had been a deacon, elder, and treasurer. The family suggests tributes to the church or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

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