Richard C. Dreher, 1916-2013: Carpenter worked on Toledo landmarks


Richard C. Dreher, a carpenter by trade and a superintendent at construction sites who made sure details matched plans, from a restaurant’s windows to the intricate marble and brickwork of a new church, died Monday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue. He was 96.

The cause of death was not known, but he’d lost the ability to swallow, his son Dennis said. Mr. Dreher developed aphasia about a year ago and was unable to speak. Doctors did not discover a cause of the condition.

Into his 80s, he took friends and acquaintances, some more than a decade younger, to medical appointments. About 11 years ago, he and his late wife, Gracie, moved from their longtime West Toledo home to Alexis Gardens retirement community. At 90, he voluntarily stopped driving.

“He was very concerned with humanity, and he didn’t want to cause another person harm or be an imposition on someone,” his son said.

Mr. Dreher retired about 20 years ago from the Douglas Co., which was building many area Kroger stores back then, said Bruce Douglas, the firm’s founder.

“He was a great superintendent,” Mr. Douglas said. “He was an honest and honorable fellow. He was dedicated and a good planner and a good guy to organize people. Everyone worked well with him.”

Mr. Dreher was a stickler for job-site order and made sure crews swept up floors and cleaned up debris at the end of each day, Mr. Douglas recalled.

“He was kind of an old-fashioned guy. He knew the right thing to do,” Mr. Douglas said. “You could depend on him.”

Mr. Dreher’s son taught school for 35 years, but he had worked with his father, who believed, “If you’re getting paid, and there’s nothing to do, pick up a broom and sweep concrete. It was his work ethic.”

As superintendent, Mr. Dreher dressed as a laborer.

“If they needed an extra person on a shovel, he’d be down digging a trench,” his son said. “He viewed it, if you build something it should be the very best. He didn’t care if it was a trucking terminal or whatever.

“He was a taskmaster. If the blueprint said this is the way it was supposed to be, that’s the way it was,” his son said.

Mr. Dreher was first hired for construction work by Comte Construction Co., known for building Toledo landmarks. He soon became a superintendent and oversaw renovations at the Toledo Club, Inverness Club, and the University of Toledo. He was on the job for construction of Gesu Church in the 1950s and St. Charles Borromeo Church in the 1960s.

He later was a construction superintendent for Ruihley & Kuerten and Bostleman Corp.

One of his first jobs after high school was with a Monroe Street cabinet shop. He was a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, which recognized him in 2005 for 50 years of continuous membership.

For more than 50 years, Mr. Dreher and his family lived on nearly an acre on Rowland Avenue in West Toledo. He raised rabbits and chickens and had fruit trees, a vegetable garden, and a vineyard. He sold his raspberries — he picked more than 500 pints a year — and tomatoes to local markets. Wine he made from his grapes won awards at the Lucas County Fair.

He volunteered readily. He’d been president of the PTA at Wernert School and of the athletic boosters at Whitmer High School. He was on the board of the West Toledo YMCA and helped organize teen dances in the 1950s and Christmas tree sales to fund memberships for low-income children.

He worked with the Epilepsy Foundation and the Northwest Ohio Rehabilitation Center. He delivered groceries to the elderly with the Mobile Market program and helped at the Luther Home of Mercy. He received a local J.C. Penney Golden Rule award and was nominated for national honors.

He was a member of Reformation Lutheran Church.

He was born July 22, 1916, to Catherine and Fred Dreher. He was a 1934 graduate of Scott High School, where he was a star on the football team. He received a scholarship to the University of Toledo, but instead worked four jobs to help his family: at the cabinet shop; as an usher at the Avalon Theater; chasing foul balls at Swayne Field; and as an athletics instructor at Auburndale School.

He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in February, 1941, and served stateside for the duration of World War II. He was a master crew chief and in Arizona and New Mexico taught B-17 engine maintenance and repair.

He and his wife, Gracie, married, May 21, 1941. She died Feb. 7, 2003.

Surviving are his sons, Dennis and Douglas; brother, Harold; sisters, Margie Stirling and Elaine Venier; four grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Services are 11 a.m. Monday in Foth-Dorfmeyer Mortuary, where visitation is 3-7 p.m. today and 9:30-11 a.m. Monday.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio; the Arthritis Foundation; the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, or the West Toledo YMCA.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.