Mary G. Block
1932 - 2020
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(News story) DAVIDSON, N.C. - Mary G. Block, who was the wife of Paul Block, Jr., the late co-publisher of The Blade, served on boards of charitable and civic groups, and who took pride in her Hungarian heritage, died Monday in the Davidson home of her son, Alexander "Sonny" Petok. She was 88.

She had congestive heart failure and was under hospice care, her son said. Formerly of River Road in South Toledo, she lived with her son and his wife, Dr. Tina Petok, the last two years. She'd called Chapel Hill, N.C., Longboat Key, Fla., and Sarasota, Fla., home at various times after leaving Toledo.

She was a former director of what is now Block Communications Inc., parent company of The Blade.

"She was very kind to me over the years, a great friend," said her stepson John Robinson Block, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "She's the last link to an older generation in my life.

"I admired the way she had a confident manner about her," Mr. Block said. "Mary was a giving person, to all who knew her. She was not a social butterfly. She didn't go out of her way to know a hundred people. There are people she liked and she was effortlessly interactive with. What Mary was was apparent, was real -- no fake, no sense of insecurity. Everything I was taught to admire, she had it."

Allan Block, her stepson, who is chairman of BCI, recalled the care she took of his father - her husband - when the elder Mr. Block was ill.

"She definitely had a loyalty to family - her family and the Block family," Allan Block said. "She understood what loyalty in a family context was."

She had many facets, Mr. Petok said, treating others the way they treated her - "No more, no less.

"She didn't need to impress people and didn't need to put on airs," Mr. Petok said. "She enjoyed being at home with Paul and the family."

Stepson Cyrus Block also recalled her as a family person.

"When Mary joined our family she became a person I could always go to for guidance with problems that confront a young man. She made our father laugh and always had an open door when we would unexpectedly show with friends," Cyrus Block said. "She was an open and a family-centric person who always had a good joke to tell before you left. I will miss our wonderful phone conversations and a great person in my life."

Mrs. Block was a trustee of the Kidney Foundation of Northwestern Ohio from 1968 into the 1970s. She also was a director of the local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

In 1989, after her husband's death, Mrs. Block was named to the board of Clear Water Inc., a nonprofit agency then being reactivated. The group in its first iteration spearheaded cleanup of the Maumee River basin, with John D. Willey, who was associate publisher of The Blade, as its president.

The group was revived at the suggestion of Betty Mauk, a community activist who worked closely with the late Blade co-publisher in efforts to keep the downtown Toledo riverfront unobstructed by development. Mrs. Mauk in 1989 had started her own informal grass-roots group to clean up Swan Creek, a Maumee River tributary.

Mary Gertrude Gall, was born June 8, 1932, to Mary Gauthier Gall and Joseph Gall, the oldest of what would be seven children. She grew up on Consaul Street, across from St. Stephen Church, in the East Toledo neighborhood of Birmingham, then largely Hungarian-American.

Later she worked with residents to preserve the area's ethnic traditions, among them the Hungarian Nativity play, Bethlehemes Jatek, and for years performed during the Christmas Eve midnight Mass at St. Stephen.

She married a boy from the neighborhood, Alexander Petok, when she was 16.

"I loved him madly, and he loved me," she told The Blade in a 2019 interview. He died of a sudden illness at age 27, leaving her with three small children.

She'd already worked as a waitress at a restaurant in the Spitzer Building downtown when her husband was laid off as a machinist. After he died, she needed money to support her family, so an uncle got her a job at the Libbey-Owens-Ford Co. plant on East Broadway.

"I put windshields together for airplanes and automobiles," Mrs. Block told The Blade, still proud of the work decades later.

"We had to wrap our hands in tape so we wouldn't cut them. We had to hold the windshield at the curve and hold them until another one came down the line, and you put them together just right. It was hard work," Mrs. Block said

John Block said: "She was determined to keep her family together, and she worked like anything to do it."

After the third time she was laid off at L-O-F she was told she wouldn't be called back.

"I knew I couldn't feed three kids on a diner wage, so I went to the biggest place in town, the Aku-Aku, and Slick Shapiro hired me," she said, referring to the nightclub in the Town House Motel at Bancroft and Monroe streets and its owner, Irving "Slick" Shapiro.

"That's where I met Paul Block," she said.

They married April 13, 1965, and she moved with her three children into the Block home on River Road, where her husband lived with his twin sons, John and Allan. It was her second marriage and his third.

"She was fun, and my father was clearly captivated by her," John Block said.

The elder Mr. Block was an organic chemist and had a doctorate. Mrs. Block, though lacking much formal education, "read voraciously. She was a critical reader and thinker and could process ideas. He was attracted to the way she could learn, grow, and be enthusiastic," John Block said.

"If she had grown up in a later era, she easily could have been admitted to a top university, such as Harvard, with a full scholarship."

History was of particular interest, especially any account of Napoleon Bonaparte's life and times, Mr. Petok said.

"I was amazed at some of her insights," Mr. Petok said. "She got married young and didn't have the opportunity to pursue an education, but through reading, she was very smart.

"She was people smart. She could read people," Mr. Petok said. "She could size you up and down pretty well."

Looking back over her life in 2019, she said she was satisfied with how it turned out.

"I wonder where I'd be now if I hadn't met Paul, probably scrubbing floors or something. We liked each other, eventually loved each other," she said. "I must say it was quite an adventure. I had a wonderful life with Paul."

Before she and Mr. Block married, she was manager of the Westgate office of Toledo World Travel Service Inc. Earlier, she was a clerk in the national advertising department of The Blade.

Mr. Block died March 15, 1987. Her first husband, Alexander S. Petok, died in 1957.

Surviving are her daughter, Sandra Dewar; sons Gary and Alexander "Sonny" Petok; stepsons, Cyrus Block, John Robinson Block, and Allan Block; sisters Kathy Galatocky, Barbara McCloskey, Margie Lawrence, and Linda Veres; eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

Private services will be held later.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice and Palliative Care Charlotte Region, Charlotte, N.C.

This is a news story by Mark Zaborney. Contact him at mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.
Published in The Blade on Nov. 26, 2020.
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November 30, 2020
I have read and reread the obituary of this remarkable woman who grew up in the Birmingham neighborhood. To her family and relatives please accept my condolence and extreme admiration for a life well lived.
Michael Sheehy
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