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Raleigh Slawson


1914 - 2014 Obituary Condolences
(News article) Raleigh A. Slawson, who worked in transportation and technology and who told epic stories as a witness to the last century, died Aug. 31 in St. Luke's Hospital, Maumee. He was 99.

He'd had a heart attack in mid-August, his son Eric said.

Mr. Slawson of Northwood read widely in science, math, and history. He read literary fiction.

"The last book he was reading," his son said, "he was reading on my iPad, Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome, and he was three-quarters of the way through it."

He grew up in the South, lived through the Depression, and served in World War II. He retired from three jobs. The stories he told were less about his own accomplishments than about what he'd seen through the decades - and each story had a punchline.

"He would tell a long story leading up to that kicker. He always wanted that laugh," his son said. "He was very intellectual and loved to entertain people with stories."

He didn't wax nostalgic for a rosy past. "I don't think he was interested in saying, 'Back when I was a boy ...' " Eric Slawson said. "I think he had seen a lot and realized that now is not that bad."

Mr. Slawson painted houses and drove a taxi during his working years. In the 1960s and the 1970s, he worked for the Pennyslvania Railroad, which became Penn Central, and was based at Olive and Water streets in Toledo. He retired and went to work at the University of Toledo in technology and media, helping students who needed to listen to a phonograph record or to a cassette tape of a class lecture.

"He was always interested in learning more," his daughter, Eva, said.

He retired at 70 and then was a factory guard for several years.

He was among the most senior members of First Unitarian Church of Toledo and attended services until recently. He was a former president of the Laymen's League and worked on service projects for the church. When the church was at Collingwood Boulevard and Bancroft Street, he tape-recorded the sermons.

"I really think of his death as a bit of a watershed for our congregation's life - the fact that he was there and was someone who had a very consistent personality," said Robert Rudolph, chaplain emeritus of the congregation. "His being there was an anchor to the past, and he could remember. He really could remember."

Mr. Slawson also was a Boy Scout troop leader and commissioner.

He was born Sept. 15, 1914, to Clara and Mervin Slawson and grew up in Dayton, Tenn. - site in 1925 of the notorious "Scopes Monkey Trial," which centered on whether evolution could be taught in school.

"It was all very enlightening to him," his son said. "It probably showed him that strict religion may not be the only way."

The promise of work drew the family north, and Mr. Slawson was a graduate of Bowling Green High School. He also worked in the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps.

He enlisted in the Navy after the U.S. entry into World War II and was radio operator aboard an aircraft called a flying boat. He patrolled the Atlantic Ocean for German submarines and later the Pacific for pilots in need of rescue. As a civilian, he became an amateur radio operator.

Mr. Slawson attended Bowling Green State University, where he met his wife, Ingrid, who was from Sweden. His letters, she would say, persuaded her to return to the United States and marry him. The couple wed Dec. 6, 1951, and were active in the Scandinavian Club of Toledo. She died July 8, 2010.

Surviving are his daughter, Eva Slawson; sons, Kent, Geoff, Jon, and Eric Slawson, and a grandson.

Memorial services will be at 3 p.m. today in First Unitarian Church of Toledo followed by a birthday party in honor of Mr. Slawson and his centenary. Arrangements are by the Bersticker-Scott Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to the church.

Contact Blade Staff Writer Mark Zaborney at: [email protected] or 419-724-6182
Published in Toledo Blade on Sept. 14, 2014
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