J. William (Bill) Straker died May 5, 2020, of natural causes. He was 98 years old. Son of the late B. Robert and Marguerite Ackert Straker, he was born on October 2, 1921, in Lima Ohio, but had lived in Zanesville since 1925.
Mr. Straker graduated from Lash High School in 1939 and from The Ohio State University in 1943 with a bachelor’s degree in Petroleum Engineering.
He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in May 1943, and as a commissioned officer served at various stations in the United States and in the occupation of Japan from December 1945 to October 1946.
In 1946 Mr. Straker went to work in the oil and gas division of the Zanesville Tool and Supply Company which became the Oxford Oil Company in 1948. He served as Oxford’s president and general manager until he retired in 1984.
Mr. Straker was elected a director of the National Gas and Oil Corporation (now the Energy Cooperative) in 1971 and became its president and CEO in 1973. He was elected chairman of the board of directors in 1978 and served in that capacity until his 1991 retirement.
Mr. Straker had been a trustee of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association since 1953, serving two terms each as treasurer, vice president and president. He had been an honorary trustee since 1972. He received the association’s Yellow Dog award in 1984 and was elected to the Ohio Oil and Gas Hall of Fame in 1989.
Mr. Straker was founding chairman of the Muskingum Area Technical College Foundation (now Zane State College) and one of the founding directors of the Muskingum County Community Foundation. In 1991 he received the Honorary Associate of Public Service Degree from MATC (as it was known then).
Mr. Straker was a member of the board of directors of the First National Bank from 1972 until 1991 and served on the Zanesville City Council in 1957 and 1958. He was a member of Grace United Methodist Church and Zanesville Country Club.
His wife, Mary Helen Cleary Straker, preceded him in death after 67 years of marriage. Survivors include daughters: Susan (Tom) Holdren of Zanesville; Jane Straker (Joe Humphreys) of Sanford, FL; and Anne (Don) Plosser of Birmingham, AL; and his son, John (Lynn) Straker of Jackson Hole, WY. He is also survived by his eight grandchildren: Dr. Samuel Henderson (Anna) of Houston, TX; Thomas Holdren (Arielle) III of New Albany, OH; Laura Brewer (Josh) of Raleigh, NC; Jordan (Matt) Chandler of Jackson Hole, WY; William “Mac” (Mary) Plosser of Memphis, TN; William “Wes” Straker of Winston Salem, NC; Sarah Holdren of New York City; and Cleary Gray Plosser of Birmingham, AL. Also surviving are his eight great grandchildren: Madelyn, Amelia, Thomas IV, Mitchell, William, Cleary, George and William. His brother, Charles (Sue) survives as well as his sister-in-law June Straker and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his brothers Robert (Jean) and Richard and sister Mary Lou Taylor (James).
Mr. Straker and his wife, Mary Helen, created the J.W. and M.H. Straker Charitable Foundation in 1994 for the benefit of the Muskingum County Community, in an effort to give back to the region where their living was made.
The Strakers’ philanthropic efforts included building the structure that houses the Muskingum County Community Foundation, purchasing the offices for The United Way, and, as advocates of higher education, supporting building projects at Muskingum University; Ohio University, Zanesville; and Zane State College.
The Strakers’ were enthusiastic supporters of health services, education, and youth activities. They financially aided many local entities including the Genesis Emergency Department, named in their honor; the Boy Scouts; the Girl Scouts; the public school systems of Muskingum County; KidZville; The Miracle League; Zanesville Museum of Art; The American Legion; and many more.
Mr. Straker may be best known for his significant support of The Wilds, beginning with the construction of the first veterinary clinic and culminating in the Cabins at Straker Lake and nature trail utilized by The Mighty Oaks Warrior Program and overnight Wilds visitors. The comfort of the cabins and the tranquility of the lake—paired with this program—changes lives and gives those who have served or are currently serving our county in the Armed Forces the tools, strength and comradeship they need to move forward following military life. As a veteran himself, Mr. Straker felt a deep connection to these heroes.
The Strakers’ compassion stretched from education to the arts to wildlife conservation and to services for children and adults alike. Their legacy of philanthropy will continue to make ripples throughout our greater community by positively impacting thousands of lives and instilling worthy values in family and friends through their Foundation.
There will be a memorial service at Grace United Methodist Church in Zanesville on June 26 with details to follow when more is known about the Stay At Home provisions in Ohio.
The family wants to acknowledge the love and care given by members of the Helen Purcell Staff, Interim Health Care, Genesis Hospice, Debbie Work and Pamela Kuntz.
Instead of flowers, please make a contribution in Mr. Straker’s name to The Muskingum County Community Foundation or Grace United Methodist Church.
THE SNOUFFER FUNERAL HOME, 1150 WEST MILITARY, ZANESVILLE, OH has the distinct honor of assisting the family during this time.
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