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Published: Saturday, 12/29/2012

Robert Dennison, 1923-2012: Founder of plastics firm was WWII vet

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Robert Dennison, who founded a West Toledo plastics business and then rebuilt it after a spectacular fire, died Monday in Regency Hospital, Sylvania. He was 89.

He had pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, his daughter Alynda Galdeen said.

He and his wife, Joyce, retired and about 1990 moved from Temperance to their family cottage in the Irish Hills. Complications from surgery left him unable to eat or drink the last six years. Other health problems caused the couple to return to Temperance about three years ago.

In August, he went on an Honor Flight to the World War II Memorial in Washington with his daughter Alynda, her husband, Bob Galdeen, and Mr. Galdeen’s mother, Dorothy.

“He loved it. He hardly had a dry eye the whole time he was there,” his daughter said.

Mr. Dennison was a manager at Bernard Engraving Co. when in the 1960s he decided to strike out on his own. Like Bernard, his new business, Denbro Plastics Co., specialized in plastic nameplates for automotive, appliance, and nautical uses.

In the early days especially, “he was salesman, he was everything,” his daughter said. “He was the bookkeeper and the office manager and fixed the machines. We struggled. But my dad was dedicated and such a hard worker and diligent, but it was tough going.”

The firm moved from its first location in central Toledo to Fitch Road in West Toledo. In July, 1981, that facility was destroyed by a fire marked by at least 60 large explosions that shot flames and embers 100 feet into the air.

“It was devastating to him, absolutely devastating,” his daughter said. He also was dealing with a cancer diagnosis and radiation treatments. Some told him to start something else with the insurance settlement.

“He decided to start the company back up again,” his daughter said. “He really wanted to take care of his family. It was strength of character. Some people just know what they have to do and do it.”

His sons Ron and Rick also worked in the business, which he later sold and which still operates as Denbro Plastics.

Mr. Dennison was born Aug. 12, 1923, in Paradise, Pa., to Mary and Ross Dennison and was a 1941 graduate of Paradise High School. He enlisted in the Navy at 17, and his first stop was at the Naval Armory in Toledo. At a function for service members, he met Joyce Hill, a Waite High School student.

The couple liked to dance at the Trianon Ballroom. They married Aug. 12, 1942.

“They were the best jitterbuggers ever,” daughter Alynda said.

Mr. Dennison served in the South Pacific aboard the USS Inflict, a minesweeper.

He was a Mason and a 50-year member of Samaria Lodge, F&AM. He was a former leader of the Zenobia Shrine’s Jeepsters, the unit that drives vintage and still-shiny red Willys Overland-built vehicles in local parades and community events. The point was to build awareness of the Shriners’ hospitals for children.

“It was a fun thing to do, but it was also a service organization,” his daughter said.

Surviving are his wife, Joyce; daughters, Joy Cohen and Alynda Galdeen; sons, Ron and Rick Dennison; 11 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.

Services are at 11 a.m. today in St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Temperance, where he was a member.

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



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