TIFFIN — Joe Vera, whose affinity for the outdoors led to his ownership of a local nursery and, in retirement, to volunteer for the new county park district, died Tuesday in his Tiffin home. He was 75.
He had pancreatic cancer, his son Dan said.
Mr. Vera was a die setter at National Machinery in Tiffin when he started helping at the Christmas tree farm run by Richard Zirger, his father-in-law.
By 1980, Mr. Vera left his skilled trade behind, and the men became partners in Mohawk Nursery.
“They saw the opportunity to grow something other than evergreens, so they started growing shade trees and pretty much anything that involved landscape material,” his son said.
The men shared the duties, “from the physical labor to the business side of things,” Mr. Vera’s son said.
Mr. Zirger died several years later, and Mr. Vera and his wife, Marie — Mr. Zirger’s daughter — became owners of Mohawk Nursery.
The business then was a retail and wholesale garden center.
“He loved the nature side of everything,” his son said.
Mr. Vera retired in 1997, and his son and daughter-in-law, Dan and Christy, became owners and expanded into landscaping services.
“It was really important to him to have somebody in his family who was interested, that [the business] could successfully move on,” his son said.
Mr. Vera plunged into volunteer work for the Seneca County Park District, which was formed in 1996.
It was a good match, said Roland Zimmerman, who was park district director.
“He liked the outdoors and liked doing things and liked to see progress and liked to see things [done] in an orderly fashion,” Mr. Zimmerman said.
As each park was developed, Mr. Vera developed the trails and, along with Mr. Zimmerman, helped maintain the land.
They built sheds and fixed barns. And Mr. Vera helped arrange for the park district to get trees the nursery discarded at the end of each growing season.
“We have 300 of these trees because of him,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “Because of Joe, all the entrances to our parks look gorgeous and beautiful.”
In March, the park district presented Mr. Vera its first lifetime achievement award.
“We realized how much he had done for us,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “He has been such an important part of every one of our parks.”
Mr. Vera also volunteered for Mercy Hospital in Tiffin, the American Red Cross, and St. Joseph Church, where he was a member.
He was born July 31, 1937, in Houston to Clara and Jose Vera.
The family moved to Ohio when he was 3, and he grew up near Bascom.
He graduated from Hopewell-Loudon High School and was employed by General Electric.
Surviving are his wife, Marie, whom he married April 30, 1957; sons, Mark, Tony, and Daniel; daughters, Christine Mundschau and Jeanne Ardner; brother, Vincent; sisters, Ruth Lozano, Eva Powell, Josephine Valdez, Caroline Schryer, and Carmen Kuhn, 13 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
Services are at 10 a.m. today in St. Joseph Church, Tiffin. Arrangements were by the Gottfried-Mack Funeral Home, Tiffin.
The family suggests tributes to the church, Seneca County Park District, or Bridge Hospice.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.