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Published: Sunday, 6/10/2012

Raymond W. O'Donnell, 1933-2012: Ex-science teacher became schools' business manager


Raymond W. O'Donnell, who became a teacher and then business manager of Washington Local Schools after an early career with firms that make heat-resistant bricks for the glass industry, died May 29 in Lane Purcell Hospice House, Sumterville, Fla. He was 78.

He developed complications after lung surgery, his wife, Mary, said. In recent years, the couple divided their time between Powell, Ohio, and Leesburg, Fla.

Mr. O'Donnell, formerly of Sylvania, retired from the Washington Local district in 1994. He was hired the next year by the board of education to fill in temporarily for the ailing business manager.

"He was a hard worker. He was thought of very highly," said David Huffman, the district's former assistant superintendent for personnel.

Mr. O'Donnell, a onetime engineering student, received a bachelor's degree in education in 1970 from the University of Toledo.

"I was a teacher, and he decided that sounded awfully interesting," said his wife, a former guidance counselor in the Sylvania school district. "He saw a big challenge in education at the time."

He taught eighth-grade science at Jefferson Junior High School. But after a long corporate career, "he did miss the business side," his wife said. He transferred to the administrative offices and became district purchasing agent. Later, he managed the business office.

He previously worked for the Remmey division of A.P. Green Refractories and was transferred from Philadelphia to Toledo. He sold fire bricks for glass-making furnaces and did trouble-shooting on the firm's products.

He noticed no one made a particular shape of fire brick and started a family business, Refractory Casting Co., which had corporate customers in the United States and Europe. The O'Donnell children prepared the heat-resistant material for the bricks; he formed and fired the bricks in a kiln he bought, and his wife was the bookkeeper.

He and his wife also ran a Big Q Quickprint franchise in West Toledo for several years.

"He had many interests, and we had many interests together, and it was a good situation," his wife said. "He was probably the most honest man I ever met in my life -- and loved work, obviously."

He was born Dec. 25, 1933, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., to Elsie and Anthony O'Donnell. He was a 1951 graduate of Central High School in Scranton, Pa.

He enlisted in the Army and served stateside and in Salzburg, Austria.

He attended Keystone College, Pennsylvania State University, and Drexel University.

The day he retired, he and his wife moved to their cottage in the Irish Hills near Onsted, Mich.

Suviving are his wife, Mary, whom he married Aug. 13, 1952; sons, Raymond, Jr., Robert, Chris, and Jeff; daughter, Kim O'Donnell; brother, Richard Whitehead; 13 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

Services will be private.

The family suggests tributes to Lane Purcell Hospice House, Sumterville, Fla.

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

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