James M. Levison, 70, who helped people, professionally and as a colleague and friend, while keeping them in stitches, died Tuesday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue.
He had kidney failure, his wife, Lois, said.
Mr. Levison of Sylvania was director for 13 years of what became the Henry County Department of Job and Family Services. Parkinson’s disease led him to retire in 1997. He oversaw such programs as food stamps and aid to families with dependent children, but also children’s and adult protective services.
“He wanted the best for young children,” his wife said. “He had a difficult childhood, so he wanted to make sure that other young people didn’t have the difficulties he had.”
He hired good people, gave them a job, and let them do it, said Cheryl Robbins, who worked for him as social services supervisor.
“He was probably the best boss I ever had. He mentored people so well,” Ms. Robbins said.
She went on to lead the Center for Child and Family Advocacy, a multicounty agency based in Napoleon that was founded more than 20 years ago.
“It truly is a result of Jim’s leadership that this agency exists,” she said.
He was a former trustee of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Ohio and was a supporter of United Way in Henry County.
“He was selfless, and he did good and would forget it and wouldn’t want anybody else to know about the good he did,” Ms. Robbins said.
He formerly was a social worker for the Lucas County welfare department and traveled throughout northwest Ohio as a supervisor in the Toledo office of the state welfare department. He was a former president of the Northwest Ohio Human Services Directors Association.
He told stories and jokes with impeccable timing and was a prankster.
“His motto was he never let the facts get in the way of a good story,” his wife said. “A lot of people said he was a real character, but he was very happy-go-lucky, and he made friends wherever he went.”
He was born June 29, 1942, to Gladys and Samuel Levison. He was a graduate of Scott High School.
He had a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Toledo and taught language arts and history in the Toledo Public Schools for about a year.
He was a member of Congregation B’nai Israel. He belonged to the Old Newsboys Goodfellow Association and Mensa.
Surviving is his wife, Lois, whom he married Jan. 11, 2003, the 17th anniversary of their first date. “We used to tell people we wanted to make sure we knew each other well enough before we got married,” his wife said. Also surviving are his stepdaughters, Ilana Sullivan and Allison Bucko, and four stepgrandchildren.
Services are at 1 p.m. today in the Robert H. Wick/Wisniewski Funeral Home.
The family suggests tributes to United Way of Henry County; Big Brothers Big Sisters in Henry County; the Parkinson’s Foundation of Northwest Ohio, or a charity of the donor’s choice.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.
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