Toledo native was CEO of Seneca Wire

J. PETER McNERNEY, 1924-2012


J. Peter McNerney, a Toledo native and retired president and chief executive officer of Seneca Wire & Manufacturing Co., in Fostoria, died Oct. 14 in his home in Lincoln, Mass. He was 88.

Mr. McNerney, who moved from Fostoria to Lincoln in 2002, died of congestive heart failure, his family said.

He joined Seneca Wire in 1971 after holding positions at a New York management consulting firm and teaching at Harvard University Business School.

He held the titles of president and chief executive officer at Seneca Wire.

His father, John H. McNerney, was president and chairman of the board of Seneca Wire from 1959 until his death in 1971.

Mr. McNerney also headed the firm’s subsidiaries, Keystone-Seneca Wire Cloth Co., and its plants in Hanover, Pa., and Brookhaven, Miss., and Seneca Wire of Canada.

His son John McNerney said he implemented management practices that promoted shared responsibility and decision making across all levels and divisions of the company.

“He dedicated a big part of his life to searching for ways to get everyone within the plant working together in a better, more cooperative way, “ he said.

Mr. McNerney stepped down as president and chief executive officer in 1990, but remained as chairman of the board until he retired in 2002, when his son took over as board chairman.

Mr. McNerney was born in Toledo on Feb. 23, 1924. He and his family moved from the Old West End when he was 13 to Ottawa Hills.

He was a member of Ottawa Hills High School’s first graduating class in 1941.

He attended Williams College in Massachusetts, graduating in 1945 with a degree in physics, and entered the Navy, but remained stateside during World War II.

He returned to Toledo and worked as an industrial engineer at Owens-Illinois Inc.

His father was secretary-treasurer of the glass manufacturer for 29 years and worked for the company for 42 years.

He received master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University Business School in 1954 and taught business classes while working on his degrees.

He formed his own consulting firm in New York City in 1965 after working for McKinsey & Co.

He married the former Natalie Marie Berg on May 23, 1957.

The couple had lived in New York and Connecticut before moving to Fostoria in 1971. They eventually bought a 175-acre farm outside the city in Wood County.

Mrs. McNerney said her husband blazed trails in the woods, planted trees, and kept horses for their children.

“He loved being out on the farm. He loved working out there,” she said.

His family said he was very spiritual. Baptized Roman Catholic, Mr. McNerney attended services of other denominations.

“He was always seeking the best for growth of the person,” his wife said. “He was very much interested in all religions. He felt there was a common thread in all of them.”

Surviving are his wife, Natalie; daughters, Elizabeth Bell, Mary Mitchell, and Caroline Whiteleather; sons, John and Timothy McNerney; brother, N. James McNerney; sister, Mary Gunther, and six grandchildren.

Memorial services were Oct. 20 in St. Joseph Church in Lincoln.

The family suggests that tributes be given to the charity of the donor’s choice.

— Mark Reiter