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Published: Friday, 3/17/2006

Widow leaves $6.5M to Catholic institutions

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The funds could help restore the steeple of Historic Church of St. Patrick downtown. The funds could help restore the steeple of Historic Church of St. Patrick downtown.
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Margaret Hays Tank always hoped that the steeple of the Historic Church of St. Patrick would someday be rebuilt.

That dream might soon become a reality because of a bequest the late Mrs. Tank, a devout Roman Catholic and lifelong member of the parish, recently left to the downtown landmark.

The church was built around the turn of the century for the city's Irish Catholic immigrants.

The church and four other Catholic institutions will benefit from a $6.5 million estate that Mrs. Tank and her late husband, Dr. Reynold Tank, left in their will.

An integral part of the city sky-line, the steeple was destroyed by fire in September, 1980, when it was struck by lightning during an afternoon thunderstorm.

The Rev. Michael Billian, episcopal vicar for the Toledo diocese, who was close to the couple and pastor of the downtown church for many years, said seeing the 90-foot spire restored was a hot topic for Mrs. Tank.

"She always wanted the church to rebuild the steeple. It was something she always talked about,'' said Father Billian, who was Mrs. Tank's legal guardian for the last two years of her life.

Mrs. Tank, 92, died Feb. 25 in the Franciscan Care Center. Her estate, which is yet to be finalized, was filed earlier this month in Lucas County Probate Court.

While no specific plans have been developed for using funds from the bequest at St. Patrick's, the Rev. Dennis Hartigan, the church's current pastor, said some of the money could be used for the steeple, which he estimated would cost about $400,000 to rebuild.

"Since I became pastor in July, people who belong to the parish and others outside the parish have asked me when the steeple is going to be replaced," Father Hartigan said.

"It is a real marking for the downtown skyline. It is my hope to proceed as quickly as possible," he said.

The diocese contracted in 2001 with a cellular phone company to restore the spire and install transmitters for cellular phones inside it.

However, two years ago the firm bailed out of the deal that would have restored the tower, complete with four smaller "cricket" spires, to its original height of 240 feet.

A lifelong teacher, Mrs. Tank married her husband in 1972 - her first marriage and his third.

The couple had no children.

She taught the fifth grade for 45 years at Raymer Elementary School, retiring in 1979.

The twice-widowed Dr. Tank was the father of 10 children and a surgeon who kept an office at Starr Avenue and East Broadway. It was often joked that he delivered half the babies on the city's east side.

Nearly 98 years old, he died on St. Patrick's Day in 1998.

Father Billian and friends of the couple said the Tanks had a very modest lifestyle; they lived in a simple split-level home in Oregon. They said she loved the water, socializing, and her dog, Trixie.

"When people told me she had a lot of money, I never believed them because she lived so simply. I always thought they were joking. She didn't flaunt it, dress elegantly, drive in a fancy car, or live in a big house," he said.

The will stipulates that the bulk of the couple's estate is to be equally shared by St. Patrick's, the Sisters of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Sisters of St. Francis in Sylvania, St. John's Jesuit High School, and St. Louis University, which was Dr. Tank's alma mater.

A graduate of the former St. John's College in Toledo, Dr. Tank grew up near Bono in Jerusalem Township.

He received his medical degree in 1926 from Saint Louis University, a Catholic Jesuit college in Missouri.

"This is a very fortunate occurrence for us. We appreciate you being the bearer of good news," said Thomas Keefe, vice president for development and university relations, when he was told that his university would share in the bequest.

Mr. Keefe said the Tanks visited the campus in 1986 for an alumni event.

At that time, according to notes he obtained, they shared their desire to include the university in their will.

"He indicated that his education at Saint Louis University was both an education and formational experience," Mr. Keefe said.

"As you can see by his bequest, he was committed to the mission and ministry of the Catholic church," he said.

In her bequest, Mrs. Tank also left $25,000 to the Toledo Animal Shelter and $10,000 each to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center and the Sisters of the Visitation on Parkside Boulevard.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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