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Published: Wednesday, 10/17/2012

LaVerne W. ‘Vern’ Cousino, 1920-2012: Former Toledoan camp-ware innovator

LaVerne W. "Vern" Cousino, an executive for makers of tents and camping-ware whose aim was to sell equipment to retailers and outdoor recreation to the public, died on Oct. 3, in hospice at Evanston Hospital, Evanston, Ill.

He was 92.

He had Parkinson's disease, family members said.

Mr. Cousino, formerly of South Toledo, lived for more than two years in a Chicago nursing home.

Mr. Cousino was a former executive vice president of National Canvas Products Corp. in Toledo.

He had also been a vice president and a manager of sales in the camping and sporting goods divisions.

The firm supplied stores with boat covers, tents, and outdoors accessories.

He was an innovator in the industry and introduced tents — some of which slept upward of six — in blue, yellow, and shades other than standard canvas green, his son David said.

He went to trade shows, "trying to convince department stores that this was a viable business for them to get into," his daughter-in-law, Darrah Cousino, said.

Mr. Cousino dealt with Sam Walton when Walmart was in its infancy.

"He said Sam was quite a character, and very demanding," his son said.

National Canvas in Toledo closed in the late 1970s, and he became an executive for Chicago Tent and Textile and later for a tent company in North Carolina.

He began his career before the war with Hettrick Manufacturing Co. of Toledo, a canvas products maker. When Hettrick in the early 1960s moved to North Carolina, Mr. Cousino was hired by National Canvas.

Mr. Cousino brought along many of his customers, and National Canvas was able to hire much of Hettrick's laid-off work force, his son David said.

In retirement, from ages 71 to 81, he sold prefabricated housing, and worked as a bagger for Farmer Jack in South Toledo.

"Vern had a work ethic like you wouldn't believe. He enjoyed work and found value in work," his daughter-in-law said.

Mr. Cousino liked to talk to customers and developed a fan base. When the supermarket closed in 2005, "he was mad," she said. "He said, 'No one's going to hire me at 84.'"

He was born Feb. 2, 1920, to Mable and Ernest Cousino and grew up on a farm near LaSalle, Mich.

He was a graduate of Monroe High School and attended Tri-State University in Toledo.

Mr. Cousino was in London during the war and was especially proud that without attending officer candidate school, he was commissioned a lieutenant.

Mr. Cousino was a former board member of St. Francis de Sales High School, which his sons attended.

He and his wife, Grace, married in May, 1948. She died in February, 2010.

Surviving are his sons Michael W. and David B. Cousino; sister Genelda Cousino; brother Howard Cousino, and five grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday in the Coyle Funeral Home. Services will be at 10 a.m. Friday in St. Patrick of Heatherdowns Church, where Mr. Cousino had been a member.

The family suggests tributes to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

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



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