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Published: Friday, 12/27/2013

Harold 'Harry' J. Fillmore; 1923-2013: WWII vet looked out for fellow soldiers

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Harold Fillmore Harold Fillmore
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Harold “Harry” J. Fillmore, a World War II veteran who stayed devoted to aiding other vets in life and death, died Tuesday at Stein Hospice Care Center in Sandusky. He was 90.

His daughter, Janet Schmidt, said her father died of sepsis.

Mr. Fillmore was born in Elmore to Carl J. and Matilda C. (Lieske) Fillmore, and lived most of his life in northwest Ohio. Like many young men of his generation, Mr. Fillmore was called to serve during World War II. He was in the U.S. Navy and spent much of the war in the North Atlantic as a guard aboard Liberty ships, cargo vessels that delivered supplies to Allied nations in Europe, Ms. Schmidt said.

Though the ships he served on were never hit by enemy fire, his service was at times harrowing. Once, his daughter said, Mr. Fillmore was aboard a ship that was part of a large convoy. A major storm disorientated the ships. While he was on guard, another ship nearly collided with his, but a wave separated the two vessels at the last moment.

Mr. Fillmore also served in the Pacific, working on a construction crew on Okinawa tasked with rebuilding the island after the battle. Weather, again, was the enemy, with a typhoon pummeling the island.

After the war, Mr. Fillmore began a career centered around vehicles, working for 32 years as a service manager for the Al Baumann car dealership. When he retired in 1989, Mr. Fillmore began a decade-long stint as a part-time assistant for Robinson-Walker Funeral Home.

He paid special attention to funerals for veterans. Mr. Fillmore was long involved with Oak Harbor VFW Post 8732, serving twice as post commander. He was often the point person for coordinating grave services for veterans, served in Color Guards, and was at nearly every funeral for a veteran who died in the area.

He helped organize the Veterans Circle of Remembrance monument in Union Cemetery in Ottawa County.

“He was a guy that looked out for all the veterans,” funeral home general manager Jim Ridener said.

As a special service to veterans’ families, Mr. Fillmore handmade wood cases for the flags given to the families after funerals. He made hundreds in his life, spending hours in the garage crafting the cases.

“It was his way of paying tribute to them,” Ms. Schmidt said.

A nephew is making the wood case for his flag, Ms. Schmidt said, and will take over the service for veterans in the area.

He was honored as Ottawa County Veteran of the Year for 2011 and was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in 2012.

Mr. Fillmore is survived by daughters Lauren Fillmore, Diane Meckfessel, and Janet Schmidt; stepdaughters Rebecca McClure and Jacquelyn Stout; stepsons Daniel Griffin, and Christopher Griffin; five grandchildren; six stepgrandchildren, and 13 great grandchildren.

Visitation is from 2 to 8 p.m. today at the Robinson-Walker Funeral Home and Crematory, 165 E. Water St., Oak Harbor. Services are at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Paul United Church of Christ, 165 Toussaint St., Oak Harbor.

The family suggests tributes to Wounded Warriors, or the VFW National Home for Children, 3573 S. Waverly Rd., Eaton Rapids, Mich.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.



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