ARLINGTON, Ohio - Thomas E. Honecker, 61, co-owner the last 40 years of a Findlay rental company and a leader in groups that train and test bird dogs, died Thursday in Blanchard Valley Hospital of an apparent heart attack.
Mr. Honecker of Hancock County's Madison Township was president of K-T Equipment Rental. He and his father, Ken, bought an existing rental business in 1970.
"His dad said, 'See what you can do,'•" Mr. Honecker's wife, Mary, said.
Mr. Honecker's imagination was the only limit as he expanded the firm's offerings. K-T rented out backhoes, air compressors, and ditchers, but also lawn seeders and, for graduations and parties, tables and chairs, and even hog roasters.
"His philosophy has always been, you can't rent what you don't have," his wife said. "He would try different things, and if it didn't rent, he would move on. He always thought variety was what he needed. He was a just a very savvy businessman."
At the start, he toured other rental businesses and found them to be dumpy, dirty places. About 20 years ago, K-T moved into a new facility. He lined up and color-coded his products. He power-washed items as they were returned.
"He was a meticulous person and that helped his business," his wife said. "He was a prime example of what a rental business should be."
As an avocation, Mr. Honecker owned and trained English pointers and horses, all of which took part in simulated-hunting competitions called field trials.
He was president of Associated Bird Dog Clubs of Ohio and the International Pheasant Championship Club. He was a past president of the Amateur Field Trial Clubs of America.
He was 8 when he won his first bird dog field trial at the Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, near Upper Sandusky Ohio, according to a written statement he submitted in 2000 to the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Through the decades, he won more than 60 major championships. He bought land in Mississippi in 1987 to hold field trials there.
His success could be credited to his discipline at training his dogs and his skill as an equestrian, his wife said.
"I think it's the mastery of the animal," his wife said, "knowing the animal so well you can get them to perform the way you want them to."
Family members counted on his strength.
"He had a way. Tom was always going to take care of everybody," his sister, Debra Poole, said. "If anybody had a problem, they knew they had to go to him."
Mr. Honecker grew up in Findlay and on a farm near Arlington. He was a 1966 graduate of Arlington High School. He received a bachelor's degree in animal science in 1970 from Ohio State University.
Though he didn't become a veterinarian, his son, Curt, did. In 2002, Mr. Honecker helped his son establish a veterinary practice in Dover, Ohio.
He formerly sponsored a sprint car team. The last two years, he ran the monthly horse sale in LaRue, Ohio.
Surviving are his wife, Mary, whom he married Oct. 4, 1969; father, Ken; son, Dr. Curt Honecker; daughter, Nicole Beach; sister, Debra Poole, and four grandchildren.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in the Coldren-Crates Funeral Home, Findlay, where the body will be after 2 p.m. tomorrow. The family suggests tributes to the Century 21 Fund of the Amateur Field Trial Clubs of America.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: