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Published: Wednesday, 5/9/2012

Donald W. Applegate, 1922-2012: WWII veteran helped liberate POW camps

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Donald W. Applegate, a decorated World War II Army veteran who battled German forces, was wounded twice, and liberated prisoner-of-war and labor camps, died April 29 in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue. He was 90.

He had prostate cancer, his wife, Dorothy, said.

Mr. Applegate of Sylvania Township was the retired president and a former owner of Toledo-based Lucas Products, successfully marketing such varied niche items as laundry products and hand-cleaning solutions, iron-on mending patches, and adjustable bookshelves. He retired in 1990 and his wife later became president. The couple sold the business in 2010 to Robert Urfer.

"He was a good judge of people and hired the right people for his company," said William Vaughan, whose accounting firm had Lucas Products as a client. "He was very easy to get along with. When you talk about a war hero, maybe you think about some aggressive Marine, but Don, you could describe him as a gentle person and [he] never was abrasive."

The men knew each other for 20 years before Mr. Applegate mentioned his war record, Mr. Vaughan said.

Mr. Applegate received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest medal for bravery in action, for refusing to yield to overwhelming enemy force in a small French town. He received the Silver Star for an episode in Germany in which Captain Applegate personally led reinforcements in an attack that inflicted heavy casualties and captured artillery, and more than 170 prisoners. He was wounded twice -- in the Battle of the Bulge and in the battle in the small French town -- and had two Purple Hearts.

He began speaking openly after a return visit to Europe for the 60th anniversary of the war's end, as he realized fewer veterans survived by the day. He was proud of his role in liberating the camps and aiding the prisoners, his wife said.

"He felt it was important that the younger generation would know about World War II and why he was there," she said. He spoke of his experiences in Andrew "Bud" Fisher's book of interviews with area war veterans, What A Time It Was.

A 1940 graduate of Scott High School, Mr. Applegate was a student at Miami University when he was drafted. After the war, he studied at the American Institute of Foreign Trade in Arizona and the National University of Mexico. He lived in Santiago, Chile, for three years on assignment for National City Bank of New York.

In 1960, he was a leader in Wood County of John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign.

He was a staunch conservationist and a longtime birder and was a former treasurer of the Toledo Naturalists' Association.

He was formerly married to the late Barbara Applegate.

Surviving are his wife, Dorothy, whom he married April 15, 1980; son, John Applegate; daughters, Martha Applegate and Anne O'Brien; stepson, Lonn Dugan; stepdaughters, Cynthia Dugan, Sherrie Larkin, and Jeannie Sanders; 18 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren.

Visitation is to be from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday in Sylvania United Church of Christ, of which he was a member. Memorial services are to be from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday in the church. Arrangements are by Walker Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio; Sylvania United Church of Christ, or the Toledo Naturalists' Association.

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



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