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Published: Friday, 9/18/2009

Businessman was Monroe civic leader

MONROE - James E. Rau, 86, a leader on civic and charitable boards for several decades who was a former president of the trucking business his father founded, died Tuesday in his home.

The cause of death was not reported. He had been in poor health, his sister Jacquelyn Ardis said.

By Mr. Rau's retirement in 1988, he was involved with three companies - Rau Cartage, which his father, Harry, started in 1925, and two offshoots founded in the 1970s by his late brother, Jack, R&R Leasing and D-X Trucking, said Jack's wife, Jan Rau.

He joined Rau Cartage in 1947 and became president when the elder Mr. Rau died in 1973, his sister-in-law said.

Whatever his business responsibilities, he made time to volunteer and serve on boards.

"He lived here all his life. He never married. I think for him it was a way of life," his sister said. "I think he felt it was his civic duty."

Mr. Rau was on the board of trustees of the former Memorial Hospital in Monroe in the 1960s. He was part of the study committee that recommended that Memorial and Mercy hospitals merge, said Richard Hiltz, who was administrator of Memorial and retired about five years ago as president and chief executive officer of the merged Mercy Memorial Hospital.

"He was active on the Memorial board before the merger and supported the consolidation," Mr. Hiltz said.

Memorial had been founded by the Lutheran leadership of the community, Mr. Hiltz said, and Mercy was a Catholic hospital.

"It was a very unusual thing and happened before mergers were in vogue," Mr. Hiltz said.

Mr. Rau's background in a competitive business, trucking, meant "he was an astute businessman, and he brought that expertise to the hospital board," Mr. Hiltz said. "He was active in the community. He was very smooth and very laid back."

He was a trustee of the merged Mercy Memorial and was president of the board of trustees in the mid-1970s.

Mr. Rau had been a member of the Salvation Army advisory board. He worked on United Way campaigns. In addition, he was a former president of the board of the Monroe Family YMCA and was a co-chairman of the building committee.

He was a founding member of Kiwanis Club North.

A Mason, he was a member of the Monroe Lodge, F&AM; the Scottish Rite, the Shriners, and DeMolay.

"He wanted to give back to the community and share," Mr. Hiltz said.

His sister-in-law said he followed the example set by his mother, Olliebelle, who planned dinner and made a pie daily before heading to work at the trucking company office. In the evening, she took part in meetings of Eastern Star, the garden club, and the business and professional women's group.

"It was part of something he grew up with, and he enjoyed what he did, and he was very good with people," his sister-in-law said.

He also was an elder trustee, and head usher of First Presbyterian Church.

For years he frequented Radovan's, a restaurant in Monroe, and "a lot of people knew him," said Jim Alban, who'd known him for years. "He was a very true friend."

Mr. Rau was born Sept. 9, 1923, in Millersport, Ohio, but grew up in Monroe. He was a 1941 graduate of Monroe High School and a graduate of what is now Cleary University in Ypsilanti, Mich.

He was an Army Air Corps veteran of World War II, where he was a member of the 485th Bomb Group and served in Italy. Later, he was a member of 485th Bomb Group Association and planned to attend its 45th annual reunion next month in Cincinnati.

"That was very meaningful, and probably one of the most enjoyable things he did outside of the city," his sister Jacquelyn said.

Surviving are his sisters, Jacquelyn Ardis and Janet Winkelman.

The body will be in the Bacarella Funeral Home, Monroe, after 1 p.m. today, with a Masonic service at 6 tonight in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow in First Presbyterian Church, where the body will be after 12:30 p.m.

The family suggests tributes to the church or a charity of the donor's choice.



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