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Published: Saturday, 9/3/2011

Mary Virginia Mercer, 1923-2011: Collector of dolls worked for TPS

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Mary Virginia “Ginny” Mercer, a doll collector and an expert in doll repair who opened a doll and antique business when she retired, died Tuesday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township, from complications of congestive heart failure. She was 87.

She and her daughter and son-in-law, Melinda and Robert Grant, shared a home in Whitehouse since 2008.

For many years, she lived on Ogontz Avenue in Maumee, where she operated Ginny’s Dolls and Antiques after her mid-1980s retirement from the support staff of the Toledo Public Schools.

She collected authentic dolls of all eras. The eight-inch-tall Ginny dolls were favorites, and she had at least one of every variety produced.

She also had china-head, bisque, and wood pulp-and-glue composition dolls; dolls with kid-leather bodies, and dolls with wooden limbs.

She mended too. She sanded and painted, restrung bodies, replaced missing body parts from her collection of spares, and restored to authentic appearance any doll ravaged by age and use.

“She would take something in a sad state, and it would come out looking very nice,” said longtime friend Linette Heinlin, who was a 15-year-old doll collector 33 years ago when she met Ms. Mercer. “We hit it off, and she became my mentor. I felt very relaxed around her.”

Ms. Mercer also appraised the worth of dolls.

“She was very knowledgeable about all kinds, modern to antique,” Ms. Heinlin said.

Ms. Mercer also sold furniture, glassware, and “pretty much everything old,” her grandson, Ryan Grant, said.

She sold dolls and antiques at several venues, including the Mill Race Antique Mall in Waterville, and she had displays at area antique and doll shows. She was a partner in a business called Seconds on Third. She helped organize the annual doll and teddy bear show and sale at Sauder Village in Archbold in the early 1980s and took part until about three years ago.

She was a former president and officer of the Toledo Glass City Doll Collectors.

She was born Oct. 30, 1923, in Salem, Va., to Cathryn and John Critselous. She was a 1942 graduate of Blountville, Tenn., High School, where she played on the basketball team.

Her father was killed in a construction accident that September, and though she dreamed of becoming a nurse, she went to work in a bank to support her mother and youngest sister.

She was visiting relatives in Toledo with her sister Irene when she met her husband, Paul. They corresponded during his World War II service in Italy and North Africa and married Jan. 21, 1946.

She worked for the former Toledo Trust Co. and Ohio Bell before her daughter was born. She returned to work later as a secretary for the Toledo schools.

She worked in the transportation office; at Arlington School, and at the former Macomber-Whitney Vocational Technical High School.

She also was a union organizer for the school system’s nonteaching staff. During the organizing drive, she met Donald Sugg, who was active in the union at the former Medical College of Ohio.

They became friends and travel companions, taking trips around the country and visiting Mexico, Guatemala, and Alaska.

Her marriage to the late Mr. Mercer ended in divorce.

Surviving are her daughter, Melinda Grant; sister, Barbara Ann Lamm, and a grandson.

Visitation will be from 3-8 p.m. Monday in the Peinert Funeral Home, Waterville. Services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Hope United Methodist Church, Whitehouse.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio or Hope United Methodist Church.

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



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