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Published: Tuesday, 1/18/2011

Lawrence Joseph Damas, 1919-2011: Ex-city official also operated property firm

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Lawrence Joseph Damas, a lifelong Toledoan who operated his family's property-management business until his death Sunday at age 91 at Hospice of Northwest Ohio on Detroit Avenue.

The cause of death was a stroke, his sons said.

Mr. Damas, born Sept. 26, 1919, was one of 10 children of Joseph and Hudla Damas. He graduated from Woodward High School and attended the University of Toledo to study commercial arts. But he left after a year to enlist in the Army in June, 1941.

Despite his lack of a college degree, he worked as a bridge inspector for the state highway department.

In 1953, he joined the city of Toledo's traffic engineering department, retiring after 28 years.

During that time he continued running the Damas Group with other family members, said his son Michael Damas of Columbus.

Mr. Damas joined the Army a half year before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the event that drew the United States into World War II. He served four years as a surgical technician in the South Pacific.

"He chose to go in; he wasn't drafted," another son, Larry Damas of Toledo, said.

The Army sent Mr. Damas from Cleveland to Melbourne, Australia, to work in a hospital. He was also stationed in Finch Haven, New Guinea, and Manila.

He never talked about his Army service until 2006, when he took a family trip to Washington and visited the World War II Memorial, Larry said.

"Then he started pointing things out. One day, we were there and these midshipmen from [the U.S. naval Academy] Annapolis kept coming up to him, shaking his hand, and thanking him," his son Larry recalled. "He told them, 'Don't thank me. It's up to you now.'"

After his return to Toledo from the war, he started the family business. Today it owns prime real estate in downtown Toledo as well as property and buildings in suburban communities. Some downtown lots were sold to the developers of Huntington Center, son Larry said.

During his stint with the state, Mr. Damas was an inspector for the Craig Memorial Bridge, the former I-280 drawbridge that spans the Maumee River.

"He did all of this with just a high school diploma and one year of college," Larry Damas said. "Nowadays they want you to have college degrees."

Mr. Damas said his father owned multiple properties but leased them to businesses and parking lot operators. His work involved occasional meetings with the lease-holders and handling the accounts.

Mr. Damas was not a person to slow down or to downsize his home of 43 years. Just last month, Larry said, he was showing his father how to operate a new snow-thrower he had purchased.

He cut his own grass and until recently tended a garden at his Toledo home facing the Maumee River.

"It's a different generation with his work ethic," son Larry said.

He was a fan of Ohio State University sports and in recent seasons, thanks to his son who works for OSU, was able to attend games with his wife of 43 years, Margaret Ruth Damas.

Mr. Damas was a lifelong member of St. George Orthodox Cathedral, where he volunteered with the church's youth organization "in his younger years, until about his mid-70s," his son said.

He volunteered with the Junior League and served as a Scout master for Boy Scout Troop 176 in South Toledo.

Mr. Damas is survived by his wife, Margaret Ruth Damas; daughter, Debra Lynn Radwanski; sons, Lawrence Joseph Damas II and Michael Joseph Damas II, brother, Fredrick Damas, and eight grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Walker Funeral Home, with Trisagion Prayers of Mercy said at 7:30 p.m. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. George Orthodox Cathedral, 3754 Woodley Rd.

Memorials are suggested to St. George Orthodox Cathedral or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

Contact Jim Sielicki at: jsielicki@theblade.com, or 419-724-6050



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