Max E. Rayle; 1949-2013: Law practice center of life for B.G. man


BOWLING GREEN — Max E. Rayle, a local lawyer with a wide-ranging practice who volunteered his expertise in service of his profession, died Thursday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township. He was 64.

He had lung cancer the last two years, family members said.

He was a partner, with Fred Matthews and Scott Coon, in Rayle, Matthews, & Coon in downtown Bowling Green and continued to work in spite of illness.

“The practice of law was the heart of his being. Family was right up there with it,” said Peggy Hancock, his sister-in-law. “Max lived and breathed law. When he went into the hospital, his briefcase went with him. When he went into hospice, his briefcase went with him.”

Mr. Rayle represented clients in civil, criminal, and administrative law cases. He also was an appellate attorney and appeared before the Ohio Supreme Court multiple times.

“He was a great litigator, first of all, whether it was civil, criminal, divorce,” Mr. Matthews said. “He could try anything. I always described him as the last great generalist.”

Mr. Rayle tackled challenging cases that other lawyers didn't want, Mr. Matthews said, and then educated himself in the particulars — land use or zoning or tax law — that he'd need to know. Poring over statutes and case law at the office on a Saturday, “he would literally be excited about finding something in the case,” Mr. Matthews said.

Before entering a courtroom, Mr. Rayle “would be prepared with the legal basis, the facts,” Mr. Matthew said. “He prepared very diligently. The judge and the opponents would know Max is loaded for bear and is ready to go. I'm sure he made other lawyers better lawyers.”

Driven by a sense of ethics and justice, “he wasn't afraid to take on the big guy, and he wasn't afraid to stand up for the little guy,” said Shelly Hancock Urdaneta, a niece who had been like a surrogate daughter.

“He was very detailed in his work and cared a great deal about providing the best service he could,” his niece said. “He was a good actor in the courtroom if he needed to be and was not afraid to use his sense of humor.”

He might come on strong to start, his brother Larry said. “You'd know in a minute that he was the guy in charge,” his brother said. “Once you got to know him, you'd know he was a good, caring person. If he said, 'Let's go to lunch,' you wouldn't pay for it. He would.”

Mr. Rayle was particularly proud of his service as a representative on the Ohio State Bar Association's Board of Governors. He was a former chairman of the board's budget and headquarters committee. He also had been chosen for a term as the body's official “jester.” Closer to home, he was a former trustees' chairman of the Wood County Bar Association's law library and was a former chairman of the Wood County public defender commission.

He was born Jan. 3, 1949, in Findlay to Betty and Donald Rayle. He was a graduate of Findlay High School and received a bachelor's degree in 1972 from what is now the University of Findlay. He received his law degree in 1976 from the University of Toledo. His first jobs were as a staff attorney and referee with the Wood County Common Pleas Court. He joined the law firm Middleton & Roebke before starting his own practice, first with the late Jodie Stearns and later with Mr. Matthews and Mr. Coon.

Surviving are his wife, Susan Rayle, whom he married Oct. 6, 1973; sons, Matthew and Christoper Rayle; brothers, Larry and Daryl Rayle; stepbrothers, Lance, Rob, Jeff, and Mickey Charlton, and stepsister, Diane Charlton.

Funeral services will be private. A public celebration of life in Bowling Green is pending. Arrangements are by the Dunn Funeral Home, Bowling Green.

The family suggests tributes to a charity of the donor's choice or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

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