Ronald F. Hojnacki, a retired superintendent of The Blade’s mailroom and a respected coach of youth sports, died of cancer Thursday in his West Toledo home. He was 79.
He was ill the last five years, his son Jeff said.
Mr. Hojnacki retired in 1997 from The Blade, where he’d been superintendent for nine years of the mailroom — the department that prepares newspapers for distribution. He came up through the ranks and was well-versed in the department’s operation. And the workers he supervised knew him. “He had a great reputation,” his son said. “He was a people person, and he understood that everybody was different.”
Mr. Hojnacki, an employee of Ohio Hardware on Lagrange Street, learned in 1959 of an apprenticeship as a mailer at the former Toledo Times. Five years later, he became a mailer with the Times’ sister newspaper, The Blade, where he remained.
“His main thing was a full-time job to provide for his family, and The Blade was a stable place to work,” his son said.
His sons and daughters took part in sports, and he and his wife, Del, joined in by coaching Catholic Youth Organization basketball and track sports at St. Catherine School. But his influence extended beyond his family.
“So many people thought the world of him,” his daughter Debbie said. “You’d come across someone he coached years ago. They remembered him. He was such a role model. My mother and father left lasting impressions on them.”
Bill Sanford as a 12-year-old played CYO basketball at St. Catherine for Mr. Hojnacki and later became CYO athletic director.
“He was a great influence on me,” said Mr. Sanford, now economic development and administrative services coordinator for the city of Sylvania. “He was good with kids, and kids loved playing for him. He was passionate. He was a student of the game, whether it was track or basketball, and he made kids better.”
When, as athletic director, Mr. Sanford started a CYO cross-country program, he called on Mr. Hojnacki to help. Mr. Hojnacki even mapped out every course himself in the early days.
“That was just him giving again,” said Jeff Mielcarek, CYO athletic director since 1986. “Mr. Hoj gave so much to the kids at St. Catherline’s and, on a bigger scale, he and his wife, what a great team they were. Their heart was in it 100 percent.”
In the 1970s, CYO honored him for his basketball coaching and, in the 1980s, for his work in track.
In 1973, Mr. Hojnacki was 39 and unhappy that he’d gained weight. He started running though, at first, “he could barely walk around the block or run around the block,” his son Jeff said.
He went to local races and, in time, became close to Sy Mah, a University of Toledo assistant professor known as a running guru. Mr. Mah invited him to run with a faculty running group, which became part of the Toledo Roadrunners. Mr. Hojnacki ran six marathons through the years.
“He became very good at it,” his son Jeff said. Until his illness, Mr. Hojnacki ran at least two miles three or more days a week in Wildwood Preserve Metropark.
He was born Sept. 21, 1934, to Jane and Nicholas Hojnacki and grew up on Kosciusko Street in North Toledo. He was a graduate of the former Macomber Vocational High School, where his specialty was cabinet making. “He was my inspiration to get into the building business,” son Mike said.
Surviving are his wife, Delphine “Del” Hojnacki, whom he married Nov. 7, 1953; sons, Jeff and Mike Hojnacki; daughters, Debbie McNulty and Linda Ellis, and nine grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. Sunday in the Urbanski Funeral Home on Secor Road, with a recitation of the Rosary at 7 p.m. in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in Christ the King Church, where he was a member.
The family suggests tributes to the Catholic Youth Organization or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: email@example.com or 419-724-6182.