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Published: Monday, 7/2/2012

Marion L. 'Mike' Wilson, 1920-2012: Home builder learned how to fix computers

BY MADELINE BUXTON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Marion L. "Mike" Wilson, 91, a home builder who was a leading force in Toledo construction beginning in the 1950s and was also a self-taught computer expert, died Saturday at Foundation Park Care Center, where he had lived since 2010.

Mr. Wilson died of complications from Alzheimer's disease, relatives said.

He worked for a carpentry firm before founding his own company, M.L. Wilson Builder Inc., in the early 1950s.

His company built hundreds of homes in Toledo and northwest Ohio. "He got great enjoyment out of creating for people," his daughter Kathy Troxel said. "His clients were not only clients, but became friends as well."

Mr. Wilson was active with the former Toledo Association of Home Builders, now the Home Builders' Association of Greater Toledo. He served on committees and was association president in 1960.

He also was a life director of the National Association of Home Builders, a job that involved cross-country travel, including trips to Washington to confer with Congress, his daughter said.

"He was always trying to promote and enhance the industry," she said. "He spoke to government officials about government regulations affecting builders, and anything that might improve the day-to-day operation of the small home builder."

The Toledo home builders' association presented Mr. Wilson with its Raynor B. Pyle Award for outstanding contributions to the building industry. In 2011, he was in the first group of inductees into the HBA Hall of Fame.

During his time in the construction industry, from which he retired in 1992, Mr. Wilson was also a guiding force.

"He was the closest thing to a father or mentor that I could've had," said Roberta "Bobbie" Ziviski, former office manager at M.L. Wilson Builder, whom Mr. Wilson hired straight out of high school. "I pretty much didn't know a whole lot about the business world, and he kind of taught me from the ground up how to talk to people, how to deal with people, how to help people build their homes, and the business aspect of building homes. … He pretty much brought me to where I am today."

She is the property manager for Liberty Square Property Group.

Mr. Wilson served from 1942 to 1944 in the U.S. Army in England, France, and Germany and participated in the Battle of the Bulge.

His Army stories reflected a quick wit, his daughter said.

"One time he made cinnamon rolls for his platoon, and once they tasted them, the drill sergeant said, 'Mike, you are not to go on any more overnight bivouacs -- you are to stay on base and make cinnamon rolls for the troops,' " his daughter remembered.

Mr. Wilson's hobbies, which included being a ham radio operator, an organist, a self-taught computer expert, and a tournament chess player, all represented his desire to immerse himself in learning new things, regardless of the level of difficulty.

"He wasn't what you might call an educated man," his daughter said. "He would always say he regretted he wasn't financially able to go to college, but he was self-taught in the art of chess, and he taught himself to operate and repair computers and that was kind of unheard of in those days. He would read 100-page manuals over and over again just to teach himself."

Mr. Wilson was born Oct. 7, 1920, in Dugger, Ind., to Harry and Lena Wilson. He was the older of two sons. In 1939, he graduated from Whitmer High School, where he met his wife, Eleanor Bennett. They were married in 1941.

Surviving him are his wife, Eleanor; daughters, Kathy Troxel and Janet Wenland; four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Visitation is to be Tuesday from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Reeb Funeral Home, followed by services at 11 a.m.

The family suggests memorial tributes to Honor Flight of Northwest Ohio.

Contact Madeline Buxton at: mbuxton@theblade.com or 419-724-6368.



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