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Published: Sunday, 2/26/2012

John A Stover, Jr., 1949-2012: Earth-mover operator fished with bass club

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

John A. Stover, Jr., an operating engineer whose versatility with heavy equipment kept him in demand at construction sites, died Saturday in his West Toledo home of respiratory distress. He was 62.

He had a type of nerve disease, sensorimotor polyneuropathy, that over 22 months affected his balance and mobility, his wife, Nancy, said. For a time he used a scooter and a power chair.

He liked physical work, and his physique -- 6-feet, 3-inches tall and 270 pounds -- was his identity, his wife said.

"He was a big man. That's why this disease was especially devastating," she said. "It took that expression of his identity away from him."

Mr. Stover retired in 2009 after more than 40 years as a member of Local 18, the International Union of Operating Engineers. He worked out of District 2 on Reynolds Road and operated earth movers, cranes, forklifts, and myriad equipment he'd be called on to use by such contractors as the George Gradel Co. and S.E. Johnson.

"It was better to run as many pieces of equipment as you could," his wife said. "It really made him to be called out for a lot of jobs.

"He was kind of a perfectionist and wanted to do the job right as well as keep in mind the safety of everyone around him and wanted to do it in a way that was efficient," she said. "Kind of old-school qualities."

One assignment took him to the Davis-Besse nuclear plower plant. He worked the earth to prepare for construction of what is now Westfield Franklin Park. He did highway construction.

"Just about anywhere we drove [and] there was a landmark, he would say, 'I worked on that,'" his wife recalled.

He formerly served on the union's election committee.

He was born Aug. 13, 1949, to Viola and John A. Stover. He grew up on Barclay Drive in South Toledo and was a regular at Teen Town events in Highland Park. He attended the annual reunions through last year.

He was a 1967 graduate of Bowsher High School.

Afterward, he worked at the Libbey-Owens-Ford plant in Rossford for two years, until he found his trade.

"His dad was a kind of proponent for getting into the union [who] thought that if he wasn't going to college, that it was significant to learn a trade," his wife said.

He finished a four-year apprenticeship with the operating engineers' union in 1973.

He was a Local 18 employee in the late 1970s, teaching in the apprenticeship and training program, but returned to the field after a year.

"He was a person who loved to be outdoors. He didn't like to be confined," his wife said.

He was a member of a bass fishing club that fished inland lakes. He liked the Detroit River. In addition, he and an informal group of about eight made an annual fishing trek to southwest Michigan.

"He was dedicated. He was a serious fisherman," longtime friend John Walters said.

Mr. Stover and his wife married May 30, 1969.

"He said he would always remember it, because it was the opening day of bass season. That got a groan from everybody," his wife said.

Mr. Stover and Mr. Walters and a half-dozen other men also were members of an informal poker club. In retirement, Mr. Stover volunteered at Little Flower Church, where he was a member. He initiated Men's Club-sponsored poker tournaments and oversaw the bingo concession.

Surviving are his wife, Nancy, and sons, John III and Jay.

Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Thomas I. Wisniewski Funeral Home, with a Scripture service at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in Little Flower Church, where the body will be after 9:30 a.m.

The family suggests tributes to the Little Flower capital campaign, Seeds of Faith, or Journey of the Heart Ministries in Toledo.

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



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