Frank Leroy Gilbert, 1922-2013

World War II vet was auto mechanic, courier

6/24/2013
BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Frank Leroy Gilbert, 90, a World War II veteran who hit the beaches of Normandy the day after the initial landing and went on to a career as an auto mechanic and later a medical courier, died in his Perrysburg home Thursday.

His daughter Fran O’Neill said the exact cause of death was not known, but she said her father had heart troubles and suffered from a recent stroke.

Mr. Gilbert entered the Army’s radar school, studying in Toledo and Cleveland, shortly after graduating from Woodward High School in 1940.

When World War II broke out, he enlisted in the Army and joined its radar group, Mrs. O’Neill said.

When the war started, “he got involved from the get-go,” she said.

He was a troubleshooter for the Army’s radar units.

Mrs. O’Neill said her father was reticent to discuss his war experience, but when he talked about it, he noted that it was difficult trying to repair radar units while under enemy fire.

Mr. Gilbert was born in Cleveland on June 28, 1922, to Frank E. and Theo Gilbert.

After the war, he returned to Toledo to work for his father, who operated Gilbert’s Garage on Buckeye Street in North Toledo.

When his father died, Mr. Gilbert took over the business.

He married the former Pearl Moore on March 11, 1946. She died in 2002.

A vacation trip to Tennessee in about 1978 with his wife prompted a decision to move to Crossville, Tenn., where he found work as a mechanic in an auto dealership.

But after nine months, at the urging of his daughter Fran, he decided to move back.

The Toledo house hadn’t sold, Mrs. O’Neill said, and his wife was upset over his prolonged absence from his family.

To entice her father to return to Toledo, Mrs. O’Neill said she arranged for her father to get a job as a mechanic with Gross Automotive.

Health issues forced him to retire in 1986.

But the boredom of being around the house all day led him to take a job as a medical courier for Mercy Integrated Labs, his daughter said.

He kept the job for 12 years, driving until he was 84, when his eyesight began to fail.

“He really enjoyed that job, because he loved to talk to people,” his daughter said.

He golfed and played softball when he was younger, and he and his wife square-danced around the region.

He bowled “right up to 89 years old,” his daughter said.

Mr. Gilbert was active in Riverside Baptist Church in Toledo and the congregation that became Cass Road Baptist Church, when Riverside merged with another group.

He served as treasurer, moderator, and trustee for many years, she said.

Mrs. O’Neill, who called her father “my biggest supporter and my best friend,” said he attended her violin recitals, despite not liking the instrument, and her softball games, including sponsoring the team financially.

Mr. Gilbert is survived by daughters Fran O’Neill and Sandy Gilbert; son David Gilbert; three grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

His funeral will be at 10 a.m. today at Ansberg-West Funeral Home.

Memorials are suggested to Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg, or the Cass Road Baptist Church.

Contact Jim Sielicki at: jsielicki@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.