FINDLAY - Robert L. Hepperly, 66, a retired construction manager of the onetime Ohio Bell Telephone Co. who was Toys for Tots chairman for the local charity in which he was an officer, died Friday in his Findlay home.
The cause of death was believed to be heart-related, said his wife, Patricia. He was diabetic and had recovered from strokes and transient ischemic attacks.
Mr. Hepperly was looking forward to his term in 2009 as vice president of the Findlay-Tiffin Life Membership Chapter of the Telecom Pioneers of America, a charitable organization made up of retired and current telecommunications workers.
"He was sworn in less than two weeks ago," said his wife, the chapter's treasurer.
He retired in 1995, and when he joined the Pioneers, it was just for retirees.
"He joined because of the people," his wife said. "He knew them. He liked them all. They're an amazing group of people."
The charitable projects inspired him to stay involved.
Each year, the chapter distributes grooming packages to people who are homeless. The chapter raised money for charities in Findlay, Tiffin, and Fostoria.
One annual fund-raiser is a silent auction of items contributed by members.
"He was one of the larger draws for that because he did such beautiful woodworking," his wife said. This year, he donated a clock he made.
Several years ago, he suggested that Toys for Tots would be a good project. From then on, the chapter collected toys and distributed them to a different town annually each holiday season. Findlay's turn came this year.
"Any time Bob could do anything for anybody, he was the first person to step forward," his wife said. "He put the welfare of other people before himself. This is one area where he felt he could contribute. He had a love of woodworking, and at the same time it was going to a good cause that would help a stranger."
Mr. Hepperly began at Ohio Bell in the mid-1960s as a cable-splicer working from the Tiffin office.
"That was out in the weather every day for at least 10 years," his wife said. "He was underground a lot, too, or up on a post in a tent. He always made the best of whatever the situation was. Of course, he was younger, and the weather didn't bother him as much as it did in later years."
Much of his career was as a construction manager based in Findlay.
"He liked everything about it," his wife said. "He enjoyed doing the paperwork. He liked the people he worked with. They had a camaraderie that was remarkable, really, and just felt a sense of accomplishment, and he was very good at what he did."
He oversaw the placing of aerial and underground cable and fiber-optic lines, said Jacob Cogley, a retired assistant manager in cable repair.
"Everybody had a lot of respect for Bob," Mr. Cogley said. "He was a very good employee and a very good friend. Bob and I worked very closely. He was always willing to give you a hand.
"Bob was always, I believe, concerned with his employees and their welfare," Mr. Cogley said. "He was always doing the extra thing. He did a lot of things without wanting recognition."
Mr. Hepperly attended his children's and grandchildren's sporting events, which meant many hours at baseball diamonds and in football bleachers. "Every activity that required the presence of a granddad at school, he was there for that, too," his wife said.
Formerly of Tiffin, Mr. Hepperly was a 1960 graduate of Columbian High School. He was an Army veteran and served in Alaska.
Surviving are his wife, Patricia Hepperly, whom he married June 17, 1961; sons, Todd, James, and Robert M. Hepperly; daughter, Ann Kristine Ford; mother, Helen Hepperly; sister, Sharon Huffman; 11 grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.
Services will be at 11 a.m. today in the Hoffmann-Gottfried-Mack Funeral Home, Tiffin.
The family suggests tributes to the American Heart/Stroke Association, Great Rivers Affiliate, Columbus; or the Telecom Pioneers in care of the chapter president, Diane Lab, in Findlay.