John F. Gradel, Sr.

   John Francis Gradel Sr. (Big John), age 86, passed away peacefully April 19, 2023 with his loving family by his side. He was born March 8, 1937 to Norman and Josephine Gradel, in Toledo, Ohio.
   John was a graduate from Central Catholic High School in 1955. He then furthered his education by attending the University of Dayton where he earned a degree in Civil Engineering, played on the Ice Hockey team and was on the rifle competition team. Shortly after college, he was drafted into the United States Army, Armory Division. During his time in the Army, he honed in his skills as a Marksman, shooting rifle and went on to win a national championship at Camp Perry.
   From a young age, John’s life was full of accomplishments and adventure. His hobbies certainly covered a broad spectrum, from dance and music as a young boy, to traveling, farming and always finding a way to connect to nature with outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting and trapping. John was always on the go.
   After his time in the Army, John began working for his father at the family business, The Geo. Gradel Company on Plymouth Street in Toledo. At the same time, John sparked an interest in farming as a hobby while doing work for the Mallard Club.  In 1973, John stepped into the role as President of the Geo. Gradel Company. With the help and support from his four kids, in 1981, John went on to build Fenwick Marina, in Oak Harbor Ohio.  He then continued to expand the Gradel Company by creating a marine division  in the mid-80’s, purchasing a fleet of tugs and barges to help develop and restore the waterways of the Maumee River and Lake Erie.  As if he wasn’t busy enough, his hobby of farming turned more into a business and in 1987 he purchased his most loved farm on Yondota Road. This farm has been a cherished piece of land for the Gradel family and will continue to be forever.  A drive around the farm was John’s daily dose of nature, even till his last days. Over time, John continued to obtain more farms growing to a 2,000-acre operation. One of those being a 1,000-acre farm on Howard Road in Curtice, Ohio, which he then later sold to the Toledo Metroparks, to ensure it would be preserved for nature. His passion for conservation, preservation for wetlands, and being a lifetime member of Ducks Unlimited, are just a few ways he showed how much he cared for nature. In addition, John was first to help his township when flood waters would come and worked with the core of engineers to restore dykes, break walls and more.
   Though John was a hard worker, he also enjoyed traveling. John’s desire for travel began at a young age. At the age of 17, he talked his mother, Josephine, into giving the Captain of a Norwegian Ship docked in Toledo, OH permission for John to board for a journey to Europe. Upon arrival to France, in typical John Gradel fashion, he quickly ascended to the top of the Notre Dame Cathedral for a quick photo op. He then visited the Eiffel Tower and proceeded to drop a few firecrackers from the top to gain a few laughs. Later in life, John’s travels would take him on some amazingly unique adventures. The Amazon, The North Pole, South Africa, East Africa, Fiji, The Panama Canal, Scotland, and the West Indies to name a few. But his favorite trip to take was on the Tall Sail Ship, The Mandalay, which explored the islands of the Caribbean. When John wasn’t out on one of his exotic adventures, he enjoyed the slow pace of home, while hunting, fishing and shooting trap with his children and grandchildren, in Curtice, Ohio.
   John is preceded in death by his father, Norman Gradel and mother Josephine Gradel, sister Mary Marion, brother Tom Gradel. He is survived by his first wife and dear friend, Bea Gradel. His sister Cathy (Greg) Thompson. His four children, John Gradel Jr., Marc (Michele) Gradel, Jo (Greg) King, and Cathy Gradel. His seven grandchildren, Jessica (Mike) Anderson, John Gradel III, Jake (Nichole) Gradel, Ryan (Tiffany) Gradel, Amber (Ryan) Leach, Jamie King, Jim (Alicia) King. His ten great- grandchildren, Mason, Owen, Jett, Olivia, Hayslee and Ellie Gradel, Eva and Anderson Leach, Camron and Madelyn King, and one on the way.
   “And I don’t mean maybe.”
Family and friends will be received from 2:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 27, 2023 at Walker Funeral Home, 3500 Navarre Avenue, Oregon, OH. A Funeral Service will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, April 28, 2023, at the Funeral Home with a luncheon to follow at Wolf Creek Sportsmen Club in Curtice, Ohio. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Wolf Creek Sportsmen Club, 349 Teachout Rd., Curtice, Oh 43412 to help promote hunter education. Online condolences may be shared at


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