Harold Bland, manager of the Westgate Shopping Center for 43 years, died Friday at Cameron Hospital in Angola, Ind. He was 78.
Karrie Warsaw, his daughter, said he died of a sudden heart attack.
Of the 40,000 cars that passed through Westgate’s parking lot each week during Mr. Bland’s tenure, more than a few occupants noticed the man cheerfully planting flowers alongside the gardening crew in spring was none other than Mr. Bland himself.
Ms. Warsaw said he was so devoted to his work, he sometimes slept in his office.
His colleague, Elizabeth Holland, called him “unflappable,” a dependable, calm presence in the office, as devoted to his tenants as they were to him, for whom difficulties were only opportunities to excel.
Mr. Bland was born in Toledo on June 14, 1935. In high school, he worked long hours as a bagger at A&P to help his family.
By the time he was a senior, the manager informed him he had been promoted to produce manager.
A few years after his high school graduation, he met his wife, Bonnie, whom he married in 1957.
A large picture of her on his Westgate office wall ensured he was never far from her gaze. Mr. Bland, a jokester, would quip to his friends, “She’s following me.”
The couple had four daughters: The twins, Karrie and Kim, Dena, and Beckie. If he parted their hair on the wrong side while readying them for school, Ms. Warsaw said, they would only touch their hands to their heads once they were on the bus, out of his loving sight, because “dad did it.”
Fishing was dear to his heart. No time was too early — Ms. Warsaw recalled a trip at 3 a.m. — for Mr. Bland to head out in his boat with his line at the ready, often with family by his side.
Once, seeing Ms. Warsaw’s pull wiggle with the weight of a new catch, he said, “Honey, I think you’ve got one!” When after 10 minutes her sisters’ lines remained still, Ms. Warsaw caught her father in the act: Just as he had done for her, he covertly reached beneath the boat and hooked fish he had caught on their lines.
After he retired, he fulfilled his lifelong dream of moving to a home by a lake, where he was only moments away from his next catch.
An ardent Detroit Tigers fan, he cherished a gift of signed paraphernalia from his first game, and he raised his daughters to share his love of sports.
When they were born, he made a promise to play with them whenever he could.
Mr. Bland had a rare blood type, his daughter said, and donated “gallons” of blood. If the Red Cross called with news of a victim in need, Mr. Bland unfailingly got out of bed.
He never left the house without saying, “I love you,” or kissing a cheek. A week before his wife’s birthday each year, he dialed his daughters to remind them.
Mr. Bland is survived by his wife, Bonnie; daughters, Kim Dockery, Karrie Warsaw, Dena Barror, and Beckie White; sisters, Louise Pickens and Barbara Seiple; seven grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. today at the Reeb Funer Home in Sylvania.
Contact Jennifer Gersten at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050.