John Harpen, an attorney who had a long career in the Toledo law department and was a former assistant Lucas County prosecutor, died Thursday in Ebeid Hospice Residence, Sylvania. He was 84.
Mr. Harpen, who went into hospice on Wednesday after being a patient in Flower Hospital for about a week, had several health issues, including heart problems and a recent cancer diagnosis, his son, Jim Harpen, said.
A lawyer for more than 50 years, Mr. Harpen of West Toledo was an assistant county prosecutor from 1963 to 1965 and an assistant city law director from 1972 to 1985.
Sheldon Rosen, a retired Toledo law director who was an assistant law director when Mr. Harpen joined the staff, said he handled the real estate contracts on the city’s behalf.
“He was always a good friend and a good guy to have around. He was always calm. I never seen John get ruffled. He was able to take things in stride,” Mr. Rosen said.
Robert Young, who worked in the law department from 1975 to 2000, said Mr. Harpen was a mentor to him.
“He was a very good lawyer. He could separate the wheat from the chaff in a heartbeat. He knew what was important and what wasn’t,” Mr. Young said.
Mr. Harpen graduated in 1946 from Central Catholic High School and graduated from the University of Toledo with a bachelor’s degree in business. He was in the U.S. Army from 1952 to 1953, serving in the counterintelligence corps. His wife, Marcia Harpen, said he worked with a group in Kobe, Japan, that investigated the Communist Party in that country.
Before he joined the military, he and the former Marcia Zieman were introduced to each other by friends. They were married on Sept. 19, 1953.
In 1954, Mr. Harpen enrolled in the night law school program at the University of Toledo. He graduated in 1959. He was a division attorney for four years with the state highway department in Bowling Green before Prosecutor Harry Friberg hired him at the county prosecutor’s office in 1962. He also had a private practice.
Mr. Harpen won a lawsuit against the state in a land-appropriation case that the Ohio Supreme Court upheld in 1968. He argued that the jury had to consider the value of property as it existed before adjoining land was purchased for a major highway project in what was then the city’s west end.
“The court’s decision represented new law in regard to the department’s policy of buying property in Ohio,” he said in a story published in The Blade.
He joined the law firm of Boggs, Boggs, and Boggs as an associate in 1969.
Mrs. Harpen said her husband enjoyed arguing cases. “He absolutely loved it. He was very good at his job,” she said.
He picked up golf while young and played it throughout his life. He belonged to Heatherdowns Country Club.
Surviving are his wife, Marcia; daughters, Marianne Cochran, Joan Hohenberger, and Sharon Hastingsohn; son, Jim Harpen; sister, Mary Helen Wright, and six grandchildren.
A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. today in Blessed Sacrament Church. The Walker Funeral Home is handling arrangements.
The family requests tributes to the Bishop Robert Donnelly Scholarship Fund at Central Catholic High School or the church.
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6199.
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