Joseph LeFevre, a retired production worker and union chairman at Ford Motor Co.’s Maumee Stamping Plant, died Saturday in his Maumee home.
For the last four years, Mr. LeFevre, 57, had been battling cancer that had spread through much of his body, said his wife, Fran.
Even before he became involved in the UAW at the now-shuttered factory, Mr. LeFevre was the individual coworkers would seek to settle work-place issues or for explanations of benefits, said Fran, his wife of eight years.
“He just wanted to help people at the plant,” she said, “because he was tired of seeing Ford put the screws to them.”
Mr. LeFevre worked the afternoon shift for more than 30 years. Colleagues from the day shift would stay afterwards to ask questions “and people who were on midnights would come in early and talk to him,” she said.
He served as unit chairman for Local 1892 and worked with the national union on sub-councils, his wife said.
“There were very few grievances he did not win,” she said.
In a 2000 interview with The Blade after the automakers collectively distributed $122 million in profit-sharing checks, Mr. LeFevre remarked that the money would prompt workers to take more interested in quality and the business.
“To me, it was one of the best things the UAW ever got from Ford Motor Co.,” he told the reporter.
Ford closed the plant in late 2007. Mr. LeFevre contemplated transferring to another plant in Michigan, but his wife quashed that idea.
“I said no you’re not,” she recalled. She worried that he would want to commute between Maumee and the new job, leaving little time for them as a couple.
Several days after that conversation, he told her he’d signed his retirement papers, she said.
Tim Wagener, Maumee’s mayor and a long-time friend and political ally, called Mr. LeFevre a “one of a kind friend” who always had a big smile and positive attitude, even during the worst of his cancer battles.
“He was always smiling, even the last time I saw him in the hospital,” said Mr. Wagener.
The two met at a 1980 campaign event for Sen. Ted Kennedy, who was running for president, at a rally at the UAW regional headquarters on Ashland Avenue.
Mr. Wagener at the time ran several video stores, and Mr. LeFevre was a steady customer.
He helped Mr. Wagener on his campaigns for Maumee City Council and mayor.
Mr. LeFevre, who was born on June 12, 1955, in Maumee to Carl and Marlene LeFevre, was a graduate of Bowsher High School. He took college courses for cooking and restaurant management but was several credits short of a degree. But his finances at the time precluded him from pursing that dream, his wife said.
Mr. LeFevre and Fran were married in 2004.
The couple owned a cottage on Lake Pleasant near Hillsdale, Mich. Although he did not fish, he was content to sit in the sun at their lakeside escape.
His cancer was discovered by accident in 2008 after a mosquito bite on the neck became unusually swollen, Mrs. LeFevre said. Had that not occurred, the cancer mostly likely would have gone undetected until it was too late for treatment, she said.
Mr. LeFevre is survived by his wife, Fran; a brother Jerry; sisters Janet Doughman and Julie Carnicom; and stepsons Steven Hoke, Paul Harper, and Quenton Sallows. Also surviving is an ex-wife, Tammy. His first wife, Nancy, is deceased.
Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Maison-Dardenne-Walker Funeral Home, Maumee, where the funeral will be conducted at 10 a.m. Thursday.
Memorial contributions are suggested to Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg.
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