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Robert E. Barger

1921 - 2019 Obituary Condolences
Robert E. Barger Obituary
(News story) Robert E. Barger, who without public acclaim supported his family, developed a sales clientele, remained an American Legion leader, and built a golf league, died Wednesday in Spring Meadows Nursing & Rehabilitation Centre, Holland. He was 97.

Wide notice came Mr. Barger's way last May - including congratulations from the President - when the stateside World War II Navy veteran received an associate's degree from the University of Toledo during spring commencement, many years after he last took a class.

Mr. Barger was in declining health after fracturing an elbow Dec. 3, said his granddaughter, Kim Marie Lanning, whose care ensured he could stay independently in his apartment at Ohio Living Swan Creek.

On May 5, in cap and gown supplied by the UT Student Veterans of America, Mr. Barger saluted during the national anthem and was the first at the ceremony to receive a degree. The attention, he told The Blade, "gets kind of embarrassing. I feel like it's genuine. People are happy for me."

The degree was not a gratuity. Haraz Ghanbari, a friend of several years who was UT's director of military and veteran affairs, found out that Mr. Barger did not graduate, despite taking a full course load from 1947-50. A check of UT archives showed Mr. Barger with enough credit hours, including from Ohio State University, to quality for an associate's degree. Still, he had to apply for graduation, as any student would.

"He was proud of being a veteran," his grandson Kevin Mieczkowski said - and he was happy to say that he, like Mr. Mieczkowski, was a UT graduate.

Later that month, congratulations from President Trump were conveyed by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, during a news briefing.

He was born Nov. 26, 1921, in Hillsboro, Ohio, to Martha and Aaron Barger. He grew up in East Toledo and attended Waite High School. His granddaughter said he spent several summers at a maternal aunt's farm near Hillsboro. There he saw "plenty of back ends of horses," as he plowed corn and tobacco fields, he told The Blade in May. He was a graduate of Hillsboro High School.

In the Navy, he flew the PBY Catalina, an amphibious aircraft, and the Corsair, a fighter. He thought he was Pearl Harbor-bound, but his grades were so good that he was sent to flight instructor school. Assignments took him to New Orleans, Corpus Christi, and Norman, Okla.

Early in civilian life, he sold shoes at a downtown shoe store. He called on businesses, print shops, and school districts, as he sold office paper, stationery, and other paper goods for Cannon Paper Co., from which he retired after many years.

"He had a very outgoing personality," his granddaughter said.

Afterward, he set up his own business and, operating out of his Point Place home, continued to offer paper goods to his clients. Many called him the "doughnut man," because "he never showed up without doughnuts," his grandson said. Mr. Barger's favorites were jelly-filled.

"'He was still calling on his customers into his 80s. My grandpa was a person who when he showed up, he was everybody's friend, and everybody was his friend," his grandson said. "He was one of the most honest, best men I have ever known. He was my idol and mentor."

Mr. Barger was devoted to American Legion Toledo Post 335, of which he was senior past commander. He attended meetings regularly.

"Grandpa was so patriotic," his granddaughter said.

An ardent golfer, Mr. Barger helped organize a golf group to include members of service clubs that hold noontime meetings downtown - such as Kiwanis, Rotary, and Post 335. His sales technique built the ranks of the Interluncheon Golf League.

"He ran it for 50-plus years," said Roger Moore, 83, a league member. "He had the tenacity of calling people and getting people involved, and to bring their friends."

Mr. Barger was on hand throughout the 2018 season. He rode a golf cart and "would get out and putt and chip. He didn't have the long game any more," his grandson said.

He played tennis into his 80s and was a fan of UT and Ohio State athletics.

He and the former Jeanne Snyder married Sept. 8, 1944. She died Sept. 14, 2011. Their daughters Sandra Grohowski and Nancy Mieczkowski Briggs preceded him in death.

Surviving are three grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren.

The family will receive guests from 3-8 p.m. Friday at Newcomer Southwest Chapel. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Messiah Lutheran Church.

The family suggests tributes to Spring Meadows Nursing & Rehabilitation Centre or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

This is a news story by Mark Zaborney. Contact him at [email protected] or 419-724-6182.
Published in The Blade on Jan. 13, 2019
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