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Published: Wednesday, 7/24/2013

Joyce A. Dubiel [1937-2013]; Civil-rights investigatorfought to aid autistic son

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Joyce A. Dubiel, 76, who brought compassion and grit and a history of fighting for fairness to her career as an Ohio civil-rights investigator, died Saturday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township.

She had pulmonary fibrosis, her son Dan said.

Mrs. Dubiel of Point Place retired in 2004 from the Toledo regional office of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, where she was employed for 15 years.

She investigated charges filed by people who said that their civil rights were violated by an employer or a landlord, or in getting credit, or based on disability. To get a full picture, she interviewed those accused of discrimination.

Once, while she was in Sandusky County on a housing case, one interviewee pulled out a gun and, in front of Mrs. Dubiel, shot two other interviewees, said Darlene Sweeney-Newbern, director of the Toledo regional office. All were on the same side of the case.

Mrs. Dubiel stayed and helped the wounded until police and medical crews arrived. Both survived.

“She’s in the room with them, and he has a gun,” Ms. Sweeney-Newbern said. “Joyce, she did not leave these individuals.

“We think of Joyce as a warrior,” said Ms. Sweeney-Newbern, who became a close friend. “She had a real commitment to civil rights. Joyce always had a sense of fairness on all issues. She did not like injustices whatsoever.”

Yet Mrs. Dubiel’s findings were based on the facts she uncovered, not emotion.

“She was such a straight shooter,” Ms. Sweeney-Newbern said.

She went to the civil rights commission after years of fighting for the rights, in school and otherwise, of her son Christopher, who is autistic, and of working with parents of children with disabilities.

“She was always good at fighting the fight,” her son Dan said.

Her view of the job could seem contradictory.

“I love it,” she told The Blade in 1994. “It’s a killer. It’s a real pressure cooker. But it’s strange, you feel useful.”

She put in the time necessary for a thorough investigation, but for years was not compensated by the state for all the hours she worked. That’s why she and 35 others in the civil rights commission’s regional offices sued for unpaid overtime and damages.

The U.S. Labor Department agreed with the workers’ claims and, finally, a federal judge ruled that the workers had been deprived of hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime pay.

“We put a lot into this system, and for once the system has given us something back,” Mrs. Dubiel said after the ruling. “...One of the others said, ‘I don’t care if we get one dollar. We’ve proven our point.’ Well, I’ll take the dollar, too.”

In retirement, she was a consultant to employers on matters of equal-employment law.

She was born Jan. 16, 1937, in Pierson, Mich., to Dorothy and Velores “Donald” Robinson and grew up in nearby Grand Rapids. She attended Michigan State University.

She and Richard Dubiel, whom she married Aug. 22, 1959, met as co-workers in a Detroit bakery.

She was a member of St. John the Baptist Church.

Surviving are her husband, Richard; sons, R. Michael, Christopher, and Dan, daughter, Catherine Canning; and five grandchildren.

Services are at 11 a.m. today in St. John the Baptist Church, Point Place, where the family will gather at 10:45 a.m. Arrangements are by the Reeb Funeral Home, Sylvania.

The family suggests tributes to Lott Industries.

Contact Mark Zaborney at:

mzaborney@theblade.com

or 419-724-6182.



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