Howard L. Flood, one of the Akron area’s most devoted leaders and the retired chairman of FirstMerit Corp., died Thursday evening.
Mr. Flood died of complications from multiple system atrophy, a rare degenerative neurological disorder, according to his wife, Gena. He was 78.
Mr. Flood was known for immersing himself in community affairs, even while leading the largest banking institution headquartered in Akron. The longtime Stow resident continued his civic activities after he retired in 1996, serving as a University of Akron trustee and in other roles.
“He loved his bank and he loved Akron,” said Gena Flood, Mr. Flood’s wife of nearly 55 years.
“He worked hard,” she said. “He used to sleep with a legal pad by the bed and if he woke up, had a thought in the middle of the night, he would jot it down.”
Mr. Flood was a 33-year veteran of the banking company, rising to the top rank of both First National Bank and its holding company. Under his leadership, Akron’s First National Bank, now FirstMerit Corp., grew from an institution with $2.4 billion in assets to one with assets of $5.6 billion.
His contributions to the area over the decades were legion, providing his leadership skills to downtown revitalization efforts, to local hospitals and charitable groups, and to organizations serving youth, education and culture.
“There was a decade of Akron’s progress [in the 1980s] in which he was one of the major leaders,” said David Lieberth, retired Akron deputy mayor and a longtime civic activist.
Lieberth recalled that in the mid-1980s, Mr. Flood was instrumental in helping to land financing for the renovation of the landmark Canal Square building downtown, which then housed a downtown YMCA. He was president and CEO of First National Bank at the time.
“Howard recognized the importance of it, and he was crucial to saving the YMCA building and allowing it to become a residential development in downtown when we really had no other downtown housing,” Lieberth said. “It is such a historic building. The potential was there and it could have been lost forever but for his saving it.”
Also in the mid-1980s, Mr. Flood, along with Akron attorney Patrick Reymann, helped put together a financial bailout package for the Akron Civic Theatre.
The fifth of seven children of Julia and Edward Flood, he was born in Staten Island, N.Y. His family moved to Ohio in 1945.
As an 18-year-old high school senior, Mr. Flood enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 1952, and missed the closing days of the Korean War. He was a paratrooper for the next several years and was selected to serve in the Army’s Special Forces Airborne division (the precursor to the Green Berets) and served with them in Germany from 1953 until 1957.
A childhood passion for airplanes led to Flood becoming a licensed pilot in 1962.
“Howard loved to fly. That was his golf,” Gena Flood said.
He joined First National Bank in 1963, advancing to assistant cashier. A string of promotions followed, and in 1981, Mr. Flood was tapped as executive vice president of First Bancorporation of Ohio, the newly created bank holding company that went public that year. First Bancorporation shed its name for FirstMerit Corp. in 1995.
In 1983, Flood was named president and chief operating officer of First National Bank, as well as the holding company First Bancorporation of Ohio. He also served as CEO. He assumed the chairman’s title in March 1995.
Paul Greig, FirstMerit’s current chairman, president and CEO, said in an email: “Howard Flood is remembered fondly by those who worked with him at FirstMerit. Under his leadership, the bank expanded throughout Northeast Ohio through a number of strategic acquisitions in the 1980s and 1990s.”
Greig said Flood’s commitment to the Akron area and involvement in community activities “is still being felt across the region.”
Flood’s long list of activities included serving as chairman and trustee of Leadership Akron and trustee of the University of Akron, Akron General Medical Center, Inventure Place, Downtown Akron Partnership, Cleveland National Air Show and the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges.
He also was member of the executive committee of the Boy Scouts of America, Great Trail Council, and an advisory board member of WKSU Community Advisory Council.
He served in various positions with the Akron Regional Development Board, Akron Roundtable, American Lung Association, Hoban 2000 Building Campaign, United Way, Cleveland Orchestra and Children’s Hospital Medical Center of Akron (now Akron Children’s Hospital).
Flood is survived by his wife and a daughter, Elizabeth Gezzar, and two grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at Holy Family Catholic Church in Stow. Calling hours are 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Redmon Funeral Home, 3633 Darrow Road, Stow.
Burial, with military honors, will be at 2 p.m. Monday at Calvary Cemetery in Lorain.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.