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Published: Friday, 5/9/2014

Richard T. Secor; 1924-2013: Ottawa Hills judge, mayor known for wit

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
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Richard T. Secor, a longtime Toledo lawyer who was mayor of Ottawa Hills and the last judge of the village police court, died Wednesday in Ebeid Hospice Residence, Sylvania. He was 89.

Mr. Secor of Ottawa Hills had cancer, his son, Thomas, said.

He had a general practice of law in downtown Toledo — criminal, business, domestic relations — and through the years shared offices with Charles Ide, John J. Callahan, Dan McCullough, George Glasser, and Joe Shibley.

“He was reasonable and loyal,” said his son, a lawyer who was an assistant U.S. attorney in Toledo. “He was the smartest man I ever knew, and I’ve known a lot of smart men. I know there’s a bias there, but that’s just the way it is.

“The thing that bothers me is I’ve lost a counselor as well as a father,” his son said.

Mr. Secor retired in 1984.

He was mayor of Ottawa Hills in the mid-1960s and oversaw a revamping of the police department, which was unpopular in some quarters, his son said.

“He didn’t think things were running properly, and he thought he could change things,” his son said. “He wanted to commit change, and that’s why he did what he did. He was always for the people. It didn’t matter what people, resident or nonresident.”

In September, 1969, Gov. James A. Rhodes appointed Mr. Secor to fill an unexpired term as judge of the village police court, a position that was part-time. He was re-elected in 1971. The court had been exempt from a 1965 municipal court reorganization law.

The court heard no criminal cases, and he told The Blade in 1973 that he was neither overworked nor, at $600 a year, overpaid. But there were challenges.

“One of the problems with being judge here is that you know just about everyone from the village who comes in here,” Mr. Secor told The Blade. “It’s not like a big-city court where a judge is not likely to see his neighbors before him every day.”

Traffic and animals-running-at-large cases made up much of the docket.

Mr. Secor’s sharp wit was evident from the bench. When a resident was before him in 1973 for a second leash law violation, Judge Secor asked, “Have you considered a hamster?”

She answered, “We have 14 now.”

“Sorry I asked,” Judge Secor replied.

The resident received a $50 fine, which was suspended “on conditions of good behavior of both you and your dog,” Judge Secor said.

The General Assembly abolished the Ottawa Hills court in 1975, and its cases went to Toledo Municipal Court.

His only objection was that the village mayor and council didn’t exert enough pressure to move the cases to Sylvania Municipal Court, which he believed to be more convenient for Ottawa Hills residents.

He was a former president of the Junior Bar Association of Toledo and for years was active in its annual Gridiron show. He also had been active in the Sertoma Club.

His memberships included the Toledo Club, the Toledo Country Club, Belmont Country Club, the Inverness Club, and the Fifth Thursday Club.

He was born May 19, 1924, to Loretta and Thomas Secor and grew up in Toledo’s Old West End. He was a graduate of Scott High School.

He was a graduate of the University of Michigan, where he studied history and English. His aim was to become a lawyer — “I think he just enjoyed helping people,” his son said — and he was a graduate of the University of Toledo law school. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in March, 1951.

He married the former Jeraldine J. Ottgen on July 10, 1948. She died July 28, 2012.

Surviving are his son, Thomas Secor; daughter, Susan Watters; three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be 6-8 p.m. today in the Walker Funeral Home, Sylvania Township. Services will be at 2 p.m. Saturday in Epworth United Methodist Church in Ottawa Hills.

The family suggests tributes to the President’s Council at Hillsdale College or to Ebeid Hospice Residence, Sylvania.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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