Thursday, May 24, 2018
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William H. Searles; 1925-2014: Businessman applied skills to good works




William H. Searles, who was born in Beijing while his father was an educational missionary there and who balanced a career in business with local and global good works, died April 6 in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue He was 88.

Mr. Searles of Sylvania had mesothelioma.

He, in partnership with Ray Richards, started Associated Technical Consultants after he retired in 1986 from the DeVilbiss Co., his daughter Ann said. In more than 16 years with the firm, he’d overseen distribution operations and its Sears product line and directed the U.S. operating division.

Before that, he was in the office of organization at Champion Spark Plug Co.

He volunteered with the Service Corps of Retired Executives, lending his expertise to those who wanted a business of their own. He was chairman of an international conference of the Torch Club and supported environmental and social justice causes. He and his wife, Joan, traveled the world and opened their home to visitors. The couple attended concerts at the Peristyle and lectures at the University of Toledo. He took part in a multifaith group to learn the traditions of others.

“He was very steady and optimistic, believing that each of us could do something to make the world better, or our own community,” his daughter said.

He was born Dec. 25, 1925, in what was then Peking to Elizabeth and Clair Searles. After his father’s missionary assignment, the family returned to northwest Ohio in 1927, and the elder Mr. Searles eventually became dean of the college of business administration at UT.

Mr. Searles had a bachelor’s degree from UT, attended Miami University, and had a master of business administration degree from Harvard University. He was in the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1943-46.

By the time he was hired in 1958 to the newly created post of market research manager at Bunting Brass & Bronze Co., his experience included industrial market research, industrial engineering, and finance, and he’d worked at Owens-Illinois Inc. and Reynolds Metals Co. in Louisville.

He was appointed Bunting’s treasurer in 1960. But two years later he resigned to supervise the day-to-day operations of the overseas arm of the United Church of Christ. At a denominational meeting, he’d mentioned to an executive of the board of world ministries that he wanted to apply his financial skills to work for the church “sometime within the next six or 10 years,” Mr. Searles told The Blade in 1962. “It turned out to be six to 10 weeks, but if you take seriously what the pastor says on Sunday morning, then some kind of action becomes imperative.”

The job involved world travel, and the Searles family relocated to White Plains, N.Y. He returned to industry in 1969 and the family to the Toledo area.

The former Joan Hickenlooper, his wife of 68 years, died in February, 2012.

Surviving are his sons, John and Jim; daughters, Susan Searles, Ann Rockway, and Laura Dayal, and four grandchildren.

Memorial services will be at 2 p.m. Saturday in First Unitarian Church of Toledo, where he and his wife were members. Arrangements are by Walker Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to a charity of the donor’s choice.

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

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