Fred W. Bostleman, founder of the Bostleman Corp. that was among Toledo’s largest general construction firms, died Sunday at Kingston Assisted Living in Sylvania. He was 92.
He died of natural causes, his son, Mark, said.
Born in Toledo on June 25, 1921, Mr. Bostleman was a builder from childhood.
As a grade-school student during the Great Depression, he found employment in a tool shop where he assembled mechanical parts. Faced with an alcoholic father at home, he raised himself on the streets, cultivating the industriousness and independence with which he would later start his company, his son said.
Mr. Bostleman never attended college, believing his education would best be served outside the classroom, and headed instead to the U.S. Army Air Corp to serve as an aerial flight engineer in World War II.
After the war, he founded the Bostleman Corp. with $300 he had won in a poker game and $500 in bank loans. In public and in private, he stayed confident about his management of the business. The firm was commissioned for such projects as medical facilities and work at the Toledo Zoo.
A consummate professional, Mr. Bostleman wore a daily uniform of collared shirts and dress pants. He always shined his shoes and had a preference for wingtips. At his most casual, he might be seen in a polo shirt.
Mr. Bostleman founded Bostleman International Ltd., a construction firm on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, in the late 1960s. The hospital, movie theater, and three banks he helped build are now gone, along with mostly everything else — two volcanic eruptions, one in 1995 and one in 1997, left its residents no choice but to flee.
Throughout the late 1960s and ’70s, however, Mr. Bostleman’s company, whose modernization projects completely transformed the island’s landscape, enjoyed a long heyday, his son said. The island even attracted the attention of George Martin, the Beatles’ producer, who brought The Police to his new Montserrat studio to record “Ghost in the Machine.”
In his middle age, Mr. Bostleman became politically involved in a number of community groups, including the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, Sylvania Board of Zoning Appeals, Lucas County Republican Central Committee, and Sylvania Township Board of Trustees. An ardent philanthropist, he gave to many private charities and was a member of numerous fraternal service organizations, such as the Toledo Rotary Club and Sylvania Pyramid Lodge.
He retired from the company in 1982 but kept an office in the building for long after his retirement. Several times a week, he would head in to take care of personal paperwork and say hello to his staff. In 1996, he wrote a book, Reflections: Life Stories and Observations, that encapsulated his deep affection for the company and its staff. The company’s bankruptcy in 2011 saddened him.
He kept a regular appointment with the Wednesday Nooners, a few friends with whom he ate lunch at the Toledo Club. Most days he was out shaking hands, asking questions, and giving advice.
He was a practical man with few hobbies besides golf, which he played religiously on the weekends. It was people, however — his family, friends, and staff — who were always his foremost interest, his son said.
Mr. Bostleman is survived by his daughter, Bonnie Loeser; son Mark Bostleman; seven grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be at the Walker Funeral Home, 5155 Sylvania Ave. from 4-8 p.m. Thursday with funeral services at Olivet Lutheran Church, 5840 Monroe St. in Sylvania on Friday at 11 a.m. The family suggests tributes to the Fred W. and Kathleen Bostleman Scholarship Fund at the University of Toledo Foundation, 2801 W. Bancroft, or to the Olivet Lutheran Church Bell Choir.
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