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Senator Harry Michelakis MeshelJune 13, 1924 ~ September 4, 2017 (age 93)
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017,
at 10:30 a.m. at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church for Senator Harry
Michelakis Meshel, 93, who passed away peacefully on Sept. 4, 2017.
Harry was born June 13, 1924, in Youngstown, to Evangelos Michelakis
and Rubini Markakis Michelakis Meshel.
He wasn’t born into power and influence, nor were they bestowed upon
him. He had to work for them. Growing up in the Hoover depression, in
an industrial city, he had less of the common measures of wealth. His
family lost his boyhood home because they could not afford the 12
dollar a month rent. This hardship might lead one to think of these as
disadvantages, or at best, limiters to one’s path in life. That’s
where the uniqueness of Harry Meshel comes into play. The depression
made him self-reliant and mindful of the condition of others, never
losing sight of where he came from and what shaped his generosity and
view of the world and those who lived in it.
He was a graduate of the original McGuffey Elementary School in
Youngstown and an honor graduate of East High School. After graduating
from East, as it was with so many others of his time, he was
passionate to serve his nation. Standing in his way were both his
brothers, Philip and George, who were already serving in World War II,
making him ineligible for the draft. While trying to enlist in the
U.S. Marines, he was asked to join a new unit of the U.S. Navy called
the SeaBee’s [Sea for the letter C and Bee for the letter B which both
stood for Construction Battalion (CBs)]. Their mission would be the
secure landing sites for disembarking soldiers and Marines, build
runways, and to build and repair bridges.
In 1943, Harry was shipped off to the South Pacific. It was in this
theater where the senator distinguished himself by earning two Bronze
Stars with Battle Stars in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Already
resourceful and self-assertive, the war gave Harry an understanding of
adversity beyond the hard times of his youth. He felt what it means to
leave home and all that is familiar, to have all communication with
family and friends cut off and what it takes to survive with the
longing such separation brings. These hardships honed a will that
served him well after the military, driving him to be the first in his
family not only to attend Youngstown College, but also to graduate in
three years. He had the confidence to live alone in New York City,
earn an MBA from Columbia University and return to begin a storied
Harry had been an open-hearth laborer, press and furnace operator in
our mills. For six years he was a division manager of an investment
firm, from 1958 to 1964, as real-estate salesman and broker, and a
business and social science adjunct faculty member for 20 years at
Youngstown State Unniversity and at Ohio University for Political
Science. During this era, he became executive assistant to the mayor
of Youngstown from 1964 to 1968. In 1969 he assumed the duties of
Urban Renewal director for the city and was appointed trustee for the
Mahoning Valley Health Planning Association in 1969. In 1971, he was
elected Ohio State Senator of the 33rd district, serving until 1993.
Ever a renaissance man, Harry was also the International Supervisor
for 15 years of the International Boxing Commission (IBC). During his
tenure, he organized the first Showtime televised fight in China,
along with his fights in Israel.
He was Democratic Party Chair from 1993 to 1995, president for five
years on the Board of Commissioners for Mill Creek Metro Parks, and
appointed to a nine-year term as Trustee for YSU.
While state senator, Harry wielded significant power and influence.
Often fighting from the minority position, Harry won leadership roles
in the senate and beyond. He was very clear as to what he would do and
how he would lead. He would always do what’s best for his constituency
and he would lead with strength. The professional positions held as
state senator to shape and mark a life of responsibility and
generosity are, Democratic Minority Leader (1985 to 1990), president
and majority leader (1983 to 1984), Democratic Minority Leader (1981
to 1982), Assistant President Pro Team (1976 to 1980), Chairman Senate
Finance Committee (1974 to 1980) and National President of Democratic
Legislative Leaders (1983 to 1984).
Senator Meshel was unparalleled in the Ohio Attorney General Assembly
as a producer of major legislation. His legislation concerning the
creation of an economic development program, providing a half billion
dollars for business expansion and job creation is unmatched by any
state in the union. His bill dealing with regulation and control of
hazardous material was hailed at the time as the most comprehensive
piece of legislation passed in the country on that subject by the
President of the United States.
As the public record shows, Senator Meshel had been a strong supporter
of workers, consumers and senior citizens. A major innovation that he
ushered into Ohio Law was the proposal to create the State
Infrastructure Fund, known as Issue 2. This fund allows local
governments to receive grants and rehabilitation of roads, bridges,
sewer and waste water systems and other physical assets of communities
to make them more attractive to economic development and enhance the
general quality of life in Ohio. He led the effort to amend the Ohio
constitution to allow the State of Ohio to raise one billion dollars
to be shared with local communities all over the state.
Another example of legislation that he helped guide through the
General Assembly is the Handicapped Bill of Rights, which opened
employment, education, and civil rights opportunities to the
physically challenged. He twice sponsored collective bargaining right
legislation finally steering passage as President of the Ohio Senate.
He was also sponsor of the Consumer Practices Act, which prohibited
deceptive sales practices.
Senator Meshel also represented the State of Ohio on trade missions
over the globe, attempting to create markets for goods made in Ohio.
These trade missions took him to the People’s Republic of China twice,
Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Belgium, India, Sweden,
England, France, Egypt, and Nigeria. Contacts made on these trips have
fostered interest in the state of Ohio jobs and investments.
Recognized nationally by his legislative peers, Senator Meshel was
called upon to participate in seminars and various panels all over the
country. He was acknowledged as an expert in legislative matters and
had been sought out to appear on national news programs, such as the
“McNeil/Lehrer Report,” C-Span, and “Nightline” to discuss state and
Harry was preceded in death by his parents, Evangelos and Rubini;
brothers Philip and George; and sisters Mamie Coutris, Florence
Zirounis, and Dee Thomas.
He is survived by his beloved son and daughter, Barry Meshel and
Melanie Thompson, along with cherished nieces, nephews, and
great-nieces and great-nephews.
Calling hours will be held on Friday, Sept. 8, from 4 to 8 p.m., with
a prayer service at 7:30 p.m. at the Vaschak-Kirila Funeral Home Inc.,
3100 Canfield Road in Youngstown.
The funeral service will be conducted Saturday, Sept. 9, at 10:30
a.m. at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 220 N. Walnut St. in
There will be a viewing one hour prior to the start of the funeral.
Donations are to be made to St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 220 N.
Walnut St., Youngstown, OH 44503; and the YSU Harry Meshel
Scholarship, The YSU Foundation, 655 Wick Ave., Youngstown, OH 44502