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Published: Sunday, 10/17/2010

Thomas E. Fought, Sr., 1927-2010: WWII vet was city's chief of consumer protection

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Thomas E. Fought, Sr., 83, the city of Toledo's first and only chief of consumer protection, died Oct. 4 in Clearwater, Fla.

The death resulted from illnesses related to Parkinson's disease, his son, Thomas Fought, Jr., said.

Toledo's consumer protection agency existed from 1973 until December of 1980, when budgetary cutbacks forced its disbandment. Created by City Council legislation, the agency dealt with resolving local consumers' problems and complaints, and fought against deceptive sales tactics, unfair contracts, and misleading advertising.

Mr. Fought headed the agency while serving as the city's chief inspector of weights and measures, a division that he joined in 1951 under his father-in-law, James Beckett, and became the head manager in 1961.

Weights and measures checked the accuracy of measuring devices in the city from gas pumps to taxicab meters to truck scales. Consumer protection became a part of weights and measures and represented an expansion of its duties as tribune for the citizen-consumer. Its official purpose was enforcing the city's Consumer Sales Practices Act. Today, weights and measures is under the purview of county auditors.

As Mr. Fought told The Blade, "We were dealing strictly with quantity monitoring in weights and measures. Now we are into measuring the quality of products and services that are available to the people of Toledo."

While Toledo wasn't the only Ohio city to start such an agency, it was among the few that gave its agency real teeth: Inspectors could issue cease-and-desist orders with fines and criminal penalties, including six-months jail time.

Under Mr. Fought, the agency's inspectors investigated thousands of complaints a year and resolved many of them. It handled hundreds more cases a year in its landlord-tenant program for resolving disputes. There was a strong emphasis on consumer education, and Mr. Fought often appeared on local television with consumer tips.

"Ninety-nine times out of 100, the public didn't know they were being cheated, and he saw the need for public education to teach people how to avoid getting caught in a scam," his daughter, Janis Fought Brown, said. "He was a pretty straight arrow, and he didn't put up with people cheating the general public."

After barely surviving city budget cuts in the late 1970s, Mr. Fought's agency finally was discontinued in 1980. He stayed on as a project coordinator in the community development department before retiring and later moving to Clearwater, Fla.

Ms. Brown said her father was angered and disappointed to see the agency's demise, and feared that politics were to blame because public watchdogs are not always popular among powerful interests.

Thomas Fought was born in Toledo and graduated in 1944 from DeVilbiss High School. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II and served on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Boxer.

After the war, he attended the University of Toledo and married his high school sweetheart, the former Ruth Beckett.

Mr. Fought was a founder in 1961 of the West Toledo Pee Wee Football League, and enjoyed keeping up with his former players as they grew into successful men. He also coached girls and boys softball at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in West Toledo.

In later years, he was an active volunteer in the local Mobile Market program that delivered groceries to seniors.

His first marriage ended in divorce. In 1971, he married the former Virginia Simrell, who survives. Also surviving are his son, Thomas Fought, Jr.; daughters, Janis Fought Brown and Brenda Roegele; sister, Pat Bell; four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

A military service will be held at a later date in St. Petersburg, Fla. Mr. Fought requested that his body be donated to Parkinson's disease research.

The family suggests tributes to The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast in Clearwater, Fla., or the National Parkinson Foundation.

Contact JC Reindl at: jreindl@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.



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