When an Akron printing plant went up in flames in July 1995 — a fire blamed on a couple of boys playing with fireworks — William "Bill" Costigan Sr. was among the first of dozens who rushed to the company's aid.

The owner of Costigan's Office Supply loaned furniture to American Printing on North Arlington Street, recalling that his own business had been damaged by a fire in the 1950s. Just a year earlier, his company had provided business space for Williams Flooring while the North Street company also recovered from a fire.

"There's a very special kinship" among local business owners, Costigan told the Akron Beacon Journal in 1995. "More and more every day you see the local, independent guys disappearing. We have to help each other. We have to keep that spirit alive."

Costigan, who died Monday at age 97, took great pride in his community — whether sprucing up West Market Street with hanging plant baskets or taking time out each year for a ceremony honoring Akron police officers who died in the line of duty.

Stan Apple, principal at Apple Growth Partners, described longtime friend Costigan as an Akron icon.

"He wasn't afraid to say hello to strangers, and always did it with a smile," Apple said. "He was extremely humble, but he knew everyone."

Costigan, who entered the Marine Corps after graduating from St. Vincent High School in 1942, rose to the rank of sergeant. He had worked in the shipping department of the family business, National Office Supply, before joining the service and resumed work there in sales after returning in 1946.

The company, co-founded by his uncle in 1881, became his bedrock for decades. He rose to president within eight years.

"If he wanted something, he was going to work for it," said Bill Costigan Jr., who was brought into the family business along with his three brothers and sister as each came of age. Bill Jr. took over as president in 1971, but Bill Sr. continued on as chairman until 1996. The company changed its name to Costigan's Office Supply in 1980.

By 1988, the company employed 124 and reported annual sales of $17 million, with stores in Akron, Canton and New Philadelphia and sales offices in Cleveland, Youngstown, Medina, Ravenna and Massillon.

"This is all I've ever known," Costigan Sr. told the Beacon Journal in a 1988 interview. "I have no plans to retire soon. I hope I can go on forever."

Costigan Jr. said his father kept a good balance between work and his family and was proud to be the first local employer to hire minorities as drivers.

"He treated people for who they were, not how they were," Costigan Jr. said.

Costigan Sr. also held a special place in his heart for his cousin, Akron Patrolman Edward J. Costigan, who along with Officer Joseph Hunt was shot to death in an ambush on North High Street in January 1918.

"He lived with his sisters and they have passed away," Costigan Sr. said at a 1996 memorial honoring fallen police. "He never had a chance to raise a family. So I am the only one to carry the memories for him."

Costigan Sr. shared his love of baseball with his family and community. The avid Cleveland Indians fan and St. Vincent-St. Mary supporter became the namesake of his alma mater's baseball training center.

And his passion for business was "relentless," Apple said, adding that using "go-getter" to describe Costigan would be an understatement.

"He never let an opportunity in business go by," he said.

Calling hours for Costigan Sr. will be 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Hummel Funeral Home, 500 E. Exchange St. A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Vincent Church, with interment to follow at Rose Hill Cemetery.

 

Brandon Bounds can be reached at 330-996-3762 or bbounds@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow Bounds on Twitter @brandonbounds_.