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Published: Sunday, 5/1/2011

Billy A. Harvey, Sr., 1928-2011: Maintenance chief for city loved iceboats

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Billy A. Harvey, Sr., who as the city’s superintendent of maintenance made sure Toledo’s public buildings were in the best repair, died of congestive heart failure Thursday in Heatherdowns Rehabilitation & Residential Care Center. He was 82.

Mr. Harvey was a city employee for more than 34 years, retiring in 1986.

“He was just proud to work for the city,” his son Dan said.

He was hired by the city as a welder after he became a union ironworker.

“He worked his way up through maintenance and retired as superintendent. He was well liked, and he did his job, and every time there was a promotion, it seemed he was the most reliable one for that,” his son said.

“He was in charge of all the public buildings and the upkeep and maintenance.”

He found two big volunteer projects in retirement. He helped prepare the SS Willis B. Boyer for its transformation from a Great Lakes freighter to a museum ship, cleaning the last taconite pellets from the hold and cobwebs from everywhere else.

He also helped restore the former No. 9 fire station at Broadway and Orchard Street. In 1998, the structure was dedicated as the Billy Harvey, Sr., Building and was the office of what was then the Heritage South Revitalization Association.

“He liked old buildings, and he hated to see old buildings torn down,” his son said. “He liked to see how they were constructed. He probably should have been an engineer, because he was pretty handy that way.

“That was his neighborhood, and if there was a chance to save that building, he was going to do it, and that’s what he did.”

He was born May 28, 1928, to Josephine and Noble Roy “Toy” Harvey. He still lived in the Lorain Street house in South Toledo where he was born.

“His dad was born in the house across the street, so they’ve been on that street for 120-some years,” his son said.

Boyhood free time centered on the Maumee River.

“We were river rats, always hanging around the Maumee River,” Mr. Harvey told The Blade in 1991.

Summers were spent swimming.

“We didn’t miss a day in the river,” Dick Schnapp, also of Lorain Street, said.

Winters were spent iceboating. He and his friends were about 14 when they started running iceboats. A heart condition caused him to stop in his 50s.

“I used to love it,” he told The Blade, “the feel of the ice underneath you is something else. You can really feel the wind pushing you. There were lots of scary moments. You have to be on your toes, because cracks on the ice can throw you.”

His son recalled, “Dad would take us [to the river] as kids, and that’s what we did in the winter — iceboating on Sunday afternoons.”

He continued to build iceboats in his garage for years after he gave up the sport.

Mr. Harvey left school after the eighth grade. It was World War II, and jobs were plentiful because many young men were in the military, his son said.

He found maintenance work at the amusement park in Walbridge Park. One day, a young woman caught his eye. He strategically placed the brass ring on the carousel so the woman could grab it.

That’s how he and his wife, Ruth, met, their son said. They married on his 21st birthday.

Surviving are his wife, whom he married May 28, 1949; daughters, Sue Szymanowski and Genelle Hayden; sons, Dan, Jeff, Gary, and Billy, Jr.; nine grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.

Visitation is to be from 2-8 p.m. Sunday in Walter Funeral Home, where the Rosary is to be recited at 4 p.m. Funeral services are to be at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Charles Borromeo Church, where Mr. Harvey was a member.

The family suggests tributes to the American Heart Association, Odyssey Hospice, or a charity of the donor’s choice.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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