Former traffic engineer collected old radios


Joseph John Patay, 82, a lifelong Toledo resident who worked as a city traffic engineer and pursued a hobby collecting old radios and light bulbs and learning about the city’s history, died Saturday at Hospice of Northwest Ohio on Detroit Avenue.

Mr. Patay, an Old West End resident, had been in failing health with a variety of ailments, said his son, Joseph Patay. The cause of death was undetermined.

He was born on Aug. 21, 1931, to Joseph and Elizabeth Patay, and grew up in East Toledo, attending Waite High School and transferring to Macomber Vocational High School, where he studied electronics, his son said.

He received a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Toledo and was treasurer for his fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon, and was known as an effective dues collector, his son said.

His financial acumen led to his service on a local credit union board of trustees and a local historical group.

He served in the Navy for 25 years, most of it in the reserves. When the Korean War broke out, the Army had tried to draft him, but he took the paperwork to his superiors, who ensured that he went on active duty with the Navy.

He served aboard the USS Baltimore, a heavy cruiser, in 1954, and later aboard the USS Liberty, a technical research ship. After the end of his Liberty deployment, he chose to serve elsewhere, which his son said was a fortunate decision.

In 1967, the Liberty was attacked by Israeli air force aircraft and torpedo boats during the Six-Day War.

The attack in international waters killed 34 crew members.

His son said his father would later remark about his fortune in leaving the ship when he did.

He left the Navy reserves in the 1970s, his son said.

Mr. Patal’s father, a millwright for a Toledo shipbuilder, kindled his love of radios when he bought the family’s first one.

“He was fascinated by how you could plug [the radio] in and get sound from somewhere else,” son Joseph said.

Mr. Patay went on to collect hundreds of old radios, many of which were in various states of repair or disassembly in the family home.

He was a traffic engineer for the city of Toledo in the 1960s and 1970s and integral to a 1973 citywide installation of new traffic signals that could be operated remotely and keep traffic flowing smoothly by their timing.

The five-year, $2.3 million program was designed to improve key streets through a federally backed program, Mr. Patay had told The Blade.

Mr. Patay and his wife, Maureen, were married on Dec. 29, 1968. She died in 1995.

His interest in history included membership in the Toledo History Museum, for which he served as treasurer in 2009.

He served on the boards of various Catholic parish credit unions.

“When he locked onto something, he would do a lot of research on it,” his son said of his interest in Toledo history.

He was an active member of St. Mary's and Holy Rosary Catholic churches, but when they closed, he began attending Corpus Christi near the UT campus.

Mr. Patay is survived by daughters Mary Patay, Margaret Malangalila, Suzanne Aquillo; son Joseph, and four grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements with Ansberg-West, 3000 W. Sylvania Ave., were to be announced on Tuesday.

Memorials are suggested to the donor’s favorite charity.

Contact Jim Sielicki at: or 419-724-6050.