James E. Sheahan, who started a mechanical contracting firm from scratch after a quarter-century as a boilermaker, died Wednesday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township. He was 75.
Mr. Sheahan of Ottawa County’s Benton Township learned in February that he had cancer. He continued to work at his firm, Dimech Services Inc. in Toledo, until August. When his grandchildren baled hay on the family farm in July, he went to help.
“He threw bales and everything,” his wife, Janice, said.
He started Dimech — an acronym for diversified mechanical contracting — in 1980. He was a boilermaker since the mid-1950s and, in the Toledo area, worked for such contractors as W.D. McKitrick and T.C. Biebesheimer. One day, he came home and announced he’d quit.
“I said, ‘You what?’ He said, ‘The work I’m doing I know I can do for myself. I need a chance to prove to myself I can do it,’ ” his wife recalled.
He started out, according to the company Web site, “with no work and no projects in hand.” But from his experience, he knew such business leaders as the late Wallace Iott, a co-founder of Seaway Food Town. The supermarket chain was Dimech’s first customer. Leaders in construction such as Fred Bostleman and Robert Maxwell offered invaluable advice, his wife said. As Dimech built a track record, word got around, and work came its way.
“He was a tribute first to mankind and a tribute to honesty and sincerity in business,” said Mr. Maxwell, a retired chief executive of Lathrop Co. “He was skilled and knew what he didn’t know.
“He was a self-made guy and a true spirit,” Mr. Maxwell said. “He was so reliable, it made you grin just to think about it.”
Mr. Sheahan was at work until August, estimating jobs, supervising work sites, coordinating delivery of materials.
The firm worked regularly at Toledo Hospital and St. Francis de Sales High School. Major projects included Maumee Bay State Park, the Huntington Center, and the Toledo Correctional Institution.
“He’d say, ‘We’re building Toledo a day at a time,’ ” said his wife, who handled bookkeeping.
Several of his employees have been with Dimech since it opened. His sons Robert, Ronald, and Roger work at Dimech, and their father “made them start from the ground up,” their mother said. “They didn’t get to just come in the office.”
Mr. Sheahan was a leader in trade organizations and was a former president of the Mechanical Contractors Association in northwest Ohio.
He was born Oct. 14, 1936, in Flanagan, Ill., to Elsie and Patrick Sheahan. His father died when he was 6 years old, his mother when he was 9. No other family member could take him in, and he lived in an orphanage until he graduated from Ottawa, Ill., High School. When not in school, he worked on area farms.
“He said [the experience] probably made him who he was,” his wife said. “He had this determination. He was probably one of the strongest and most intelligent men I ever met.”
Each job after high school was a step up, his wife said, and in time he became a boilermaker.
He was a part-time farmer and for years the Sheahans bred, raised, and showed Haflingers, a relatively small chestnut horse of Austrian origin.
He was a volunteer in the community and a former council president of St. John Lutheran Church, Williston, Ohio.
Surviving are his wife, Janice, whom he married April 28, 1962; daughters, Rebecca Rogers and Jami Murray; sons, Tim, Robert, Ronald, and Roger Sheahan; brother, Lloyd Weakley; sisters, Betty Flaynik, Evelyn Anderson, and Julie Quinn; 19 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
Visitation is to be from 4 to 8 p.m. today and 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday in the Robinson-Walker Funeral Home, Genoa. Services will be at 1 p.m. Sunday in St. John Lutheran Church, Williston, Ohio. The family suggests tributes to the community activity center fund at the church or the Sheahan Family Scholarship funds at the Genoa Area Local Schools or Clay High School.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.