Tuesday, Oct 16, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio


Thomas C. McLean (1928-2016): Blade news, copy editor an Army vet


Thomas C. McLean, who brought an eye for detail to The Blade, where he was a copy editor and news editor, and to the Chinese artwork he admired and collected, died Friday in ProMedica Ebeid Hospice Residence, Sylvania. He was 87.

He had a stroke shortly after his recent move to West Park Place senior community, his son Tom, Jr., said. Mr. McLean and Josephine “Josie” Johnstone, his partner of 27 years, lived in South Toledo. She died Dec. 21.

Mr. McLean retired in 1987 after 27 years at The Blade. As a copy editor and then copy desk chief, he made sure articles, headlines, and photo captions were accurate and coherent. 

As news editor, he had a role in deciding which stories got into the paper and their placement.

“He was very thorough and an excellent copy editor,” said Don Michales, a longtime colleague who retired as news editor. “He was friendly and cheerful and very dedicated.”

Mr. McLean as copy desk chief had a knack for catching errors that had been through many hands, said David Mertz, a retired copy editor.

“You tried to do your best for him,” Mr. Mertz said. “Tom would make sure you understood if he did have to change a headline. He was striving for the best and wanted you to be the same.”

Mr. McLean, as a student of the English language, aimed for words that fit each situation precisely.

“He was an ardent supporter of accuracy in headlines, yet he tried to work in some humor, too, that attracted readers,” Mr. Mertz said.

His son said: “He was absolutely meticulous. He thought of the English language as an art. It’s a living, breathing language. He would talk about words that enter the lexicon every year and drop off.

“He had a good sense of what people wanted to read, what was of interest,” his son said. “He knew his neighbors. He said Toledo is a working town and pocketbook issues are very important to our readers. He took it from the grass roots on up.”

As a hobby, Mr. McLean taught himself to read Chinese — and encouraged his sons to take Chinese at DeVilbiss High School, where they were students.

“He’d come home as a newspaperman — ‘China’s going to open up. They’re going to be a global power. You have to jump on this,’ ” recalled son Tom, who was a graduate student at Beijing University and worked in China. Son Michael also continued his studies in Beijing.

The elder Mr. McLean in retirement pursued an interest in Chinese art, particularly oil paintings, and taught himself to interpret “the artistic seals that go back to the different dynasties,” son Tom said. “You had to break it down by stroke order.

“He had that very meticulous approach to everything,” son Tom said.

Mr. McLean also took part in an online forum in which professors in China asked the group for help in discerning the provenance of artwork. He visited China 18 times in retirement, often with Ms. Johnstone.

He was born April 18, 1928, in Rochester, N.Y., to Madeline and James McLean. He was a graduate of St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers, Mass.

He had degrees in English literature from St. Bernardine of Siena College, Loudonville, N.Y., and journalism from the University of Michigan. He was an Army veteran and served stateside.

His first jobs were reporting for the Owosso Argus-Press in Owosso, Mich., and the former United Press.

He had been a member of Gesu Church and lived in the Westmoreland area.

Shirley McLean, his wife of 22 years, died Feb. 8, 1978.

Surviving are his daughters Catherine Huber and Mary Brewer; sons Thomas, Jr., Michael, and Edward; brothers, James and Richard McLean; 14 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren, as well Ms. Johnstone’s sons William, Thomas, and John Johnstone; daughters Stephanie Reecer and Christine Johnstone, 12 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

Graveside services will be private. Arrangements are by the Ansberg-West Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to the Kidney Foundation of Northwest Ohio.

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

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