Roland J. “Rolly” Gagnet; 1931-2013: Die designer loved technology


Roland J. “Rolly” Gagnet,” a die designer who embraced technology as the owner of a shop that served automotive suppliers and the auto industry, died Tuesday in the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio Hospital. He was 82.

He had pneumonia and congestive heart failure, his son Jim said.

Mr. Gagnet for much of his career was with Die Cast Die and Mold, first as a die-and-mold maker. In the mid-1960s, he and Ernest Treter became business partners in the firm. Mr Gagnet took sole ownership in 1978.

“He was motivated to be in business for himself,” his son Jim said. Mr. Gagnet received moral support from a friend, the late John Savage, a well-known Toledo area business executive and public speaker.

Mr. Gagnet plunged in, contacting prospects and, ideally, turning them into customers. Die Cast Die, then on Tedrow Road in South Toledo, did work through the years for the General Motors Powertrain operation; for Gerity-Schultz Corp. — his former employer — and Doehler-Jarvis Die Casting Co..

His sons, Tony and Jim, had janitorial duties while in high school. Their responsibilities increased as they advanced at the University of Toledo, where Tony received a degree in industrial engineering and Jim a degree in business.

“He was our father and our boss too, and he wanted us to be successful,” son Jim said. “He was tough on us, and he expected more out of us than anyone else.”

Son Tony said: “He wanted us to be very disciplined.”

Mr. Gagnet was driven and worked hard, his daughter, Annette, said.

“But the one thing I remember about our family growing up: He worked long hours but came home to have dinner with the family,” his daughter said. “And then he would go back. He wanted everybody there all the time.”

In the late 1980s, while Mr. Gagnet recovered from surgery to remove a tumor in his spinal cord, the sons took over the firm for a time.

In the early 1990s, after his return, the business moved to expanded quarters in Perrysburg. He was an early adapter of technology, often investing in new types of machinery before competitors.

“He always wanted to learn new things [and was] at the advent of technology so he could make a good, quality product offering to his customers,” son Jim said. “He was quite successful at that.”

He retired in 1991, and his sons became the owners. They sold the business in 2005.

He was a member of several professional organizations, including the Society of Manufacturing Engineers; the North American Die Cast Association, and National Tooling and Machine Association.

He was born March 24, 1931, to Marvel and Roland E. Gagnet and grew up in South Toledo. He attended Central Catholic High School and was a graduate of the former Macomber Vocational High School. He studied engineering at the University of Toledo.

Mr. Gagnet was an Army veteran, serving stateside during the Korean War. Afterward, he worked at what became the Gerity-Schultz Corp., a manufacturer of die castings and die-casting machinery, where his father was a foreman.

He had an affinity for things mechanical. He built model airplanes and remote-controlled aircraft.

“My brother said it best,” son Tony recalled. “If he couldn’t fix it, it was really broke.”

In retirement, he designed an expansion of the family cottage at Bear Lake in Hillsdale County, Michigan, into a getaway home where everyone could stay — at the same time — including his children; their spouses, and grandchildren.

“He was all about family time,” his daughter said.

He was a member of Heather Downs Country Club, where he was active in golf and social science, his son Jim said.

Surviving are his wife, Mary Gagnet, whom he married June 29, 1957; sons, Tony and James Gagnet; daughter, Annette Meklus; sister, Cathy Gagnet, and nine grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. today in the Coyle Funeral Home, with a Scripture service at 7 p.m. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday in St. Patrick of Heatherdowns Church, of which he was a charter member.

The family suggests tributes to the St. Patrick of Heatherdowns school endowment fund or a charity of the donor’s choice.

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