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Published: Tuesday, 4/21/2009

Tradesman led firm that erected local buildings

Frank J. Comte, retired president of Comte Construction Co., died Sunday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio. He was 82.

A skilled tradesman, he was promoted from vice president to president of Comte Construction after the death of his older brother, William, in 1977. He remained in the position until about two years ago when he retired, family members said.

The company erected many buildings in the Toledo area, including Inverness Club's clubhouse, Gesu School and Church, St. Charles School and Church, and Notre Dame Academy, as well as buildings on the campuses of the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, and Owens Community College.

Mr. Comte, whose grandfather Julius started Comte Construction in the late 1880s, joined the firm in 1949, about four years after graduating from Central Catholic High School and having served in the Army.

His brother Robert said Frank attended UT but left school to join the company as an apprentice. After the apprenticeship, he became a union bricklayer, then a carpenter, his brother said. Before he was named vice president, he was an estimator for the firm.

"He did estimate and project management work," said his nephew Robert Comte, Jr., now president of the company, who represents the fourth generation of the family.

Mr. Comte was married for 36 years to the former Geraldine Hurlbue, and they kept a home near Lake Erie in LaSalle, Mich.

In 1988, he married the former Emmalou Gilbert-Melnek after his first wife died. They were introduced by a mutual friend.

Mrs. Comte said her husband was an avid golfer and liked to bowl and play cards, especially pinochle. "He also loved to read newspapers. The newspaper was the most important thing in the world to him," she said.

He was a member of Bricklayers Local 3 and a former trustee on the pension board of the Ironworkers union. He was a longtime member and past chairman of the Toledo Building Congress, a professional group that his father, William, help found.

He also belonged to the Masonry Institute of Northwest Ohio and was a past chairman of the Associated General Contractors of America.

He was active with the Toledo Lions Host Club, volunteering for many years to take the blind to activities of the organization, family members said.

Surviving are his wife, Emmalou, brother, Robert, sister, Mary Angela Quilter, stepdaughter, Lisa McClain, stepsons, Edward, Mark, and Brian Melnek, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday in St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Point Place. Visitation will be after 2 p.m. Thursday at the David R. Jasin Funeral Home.

The family requests that any tributes be to the Sight Center of Northwest Ohio or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

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