(News story) Barbara F. Gessel of Saugatuck, Mich., formerly of Sylvania, a former director of human resources and labor relations at The Blade who was a community volunteer, died Monday at the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa. She was 56.
She died of cancer, her family said.
A lawyer and human resources specialist, Ms. Gessel was most recently a senior vice president of operations, chief human resources officer, and interim vice president of human resources at Mercy Health Network, since 2016 until the time she retired after being diagnosed with cancer. Mercy Health Network is a Catholic health system based in West Des Moines, Iowa.
She previously was The Blade's human resources and labor relations director from 1999 to 2005, chief human resources officer at Mercy Health from 2005 to 2011, and senior vice president of human resources and communications at Sylvania Franciscan Health from 2011 to 2016.
Before joining The Blade, Ms. Gessel was director of human resources for Nuclear Generation Services with FirstEnergy Corp. In that position, she worked out of the Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Port Clinton and also oversaw human resources at the nuclear power plant in Perry, Ohio.
Ms. Gessel, who had a bachelor's degree in business administration and a law degree, began her career in 1985 at Toledo Edison Co., working six years as an attorney and focusing on labor and employment-law cases.
Later, she worked for three years managing Toledo Edison's customer services account, which typically fielded over half a million customer inquiries annually.
When Centerior Energy Corp. became Toledo Edison's parent firm through a merger of Toledo Edison and Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co., Ms. Gessel became the new company's manager of human resources strategic group services. She became an employee of FirstEnergy when that new firm acquired Centerior in 1997.
"She was open, friendly, and engaging," said Luann Sharp, a friend and coworker at Toledo Edison and The Blade. "She always had time for other people, and she was ready to listen to them. She was a great listener."
Said John Husman, also a friend and former work associate: "She was the best boss I've ever had. She let you know what she expected. Then she let you alone and trusted you to do the job she desired."
Ms. Gessel was a past board member at the YWCA of Greater Toledo and the Safety Council of Northwest Ohio. She was also involved in such area organizations as the United Way of Greater Toledo, and Junior Achievement of Northwestern Ohio.
In 2001, Ms. Gessel received a 20 Under 40 Leadership Recognition Award. The program, designed to motivate young leaders in the greater Toledo area, focuses on the accomplishments of individuals under the age of 40 who have distinguished themselves in their career and/?or as a volunteer in the community.
Ms. Gessel was born Feb. 3, 1962, in Marietta, Ohio, to Raymond and Kathryn Gessel.
In 1980, she graduated from high school and went to Ohio University, graduating in 1984 with a bachelor's degree in business administration. She then continued her education at the University of Toledo, graduating in 1987 with a law degree.
In her free time over the years, Ms. Gessel enjoyed being with family and friends, and golfing.
In retirement, she lived in Saugatuck, Mich., on Lake Michigan, enjoying trips to the beach and bike rides along the lake shore.
Ms. Gessel was a member of St. Peter's Church in Saugatuck, Mich.
Surviving are her wife, Jennifer Roe; son, Anthony Lazzaro; mother, Kathryn Gessel; sister, Erica Golden, and brothers, Alan and Tom Gessel.
Services will be at Coyle Funeral Home, 1770 S. Reynolds Rd.
Visitation will be from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at Coyle, where it will resume starting at 1 p.m. Sunday, with a Catholic prayer service immediately following at 4 p.m.
The family suggests tributes to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
This is a news story by Mike Sigov. Contact him at:[email protected]
, 419-724-6089, or on Twitter @mikesigovblade.
Published by The Blade on Jan. 11, 2019.