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John Oishei: an industrialist and philanthropist

Posted at 5:51 PM, Nov 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-09 17:51:42-05

Oishei Children's Hospital is opening on Friday and the hospital is named after John R. Oishei. But who is John Oishei?

Oishei Foundation President, Robert Gioia, recalls the memories of the philanthropist. 

One rainy night in 1916, John Oishei was driving down Buffalo's Deleware Avenue when he hit a man on a bicycle. Back then, cars didn't have windshield wipers because they hadn't been invented yet. 

Gioia says Oishei realized he needed to do something to clear the windshield on a rainy night.

So Oishei did just that and invented and patented the windshield wiper and founded the Trico Company in Buffalo.

"Trico was a very significant manufacturing entity in Buffalo, close to 5,000 employees," Gioia said. "Largest manufacturer of windshield wipers in the world."

The industrialist and philanthropist created a foundation named after his wife and mother, The Julia R. and Estelle L. Foundation in 1940. Later to become The John R. Oishei Foundation.

Oishei wanted to give back to his community and he proved that in a phone call with Henry Ford when Ford wanted to buy his windshield wipers.

"Mr. Ford said but then they would have to be manufactured in Michigan. You need to move the plant to Michigan and Mr. Oishei said no. I'm not going to do that. My company is here for Buffalo. I love Buffalo and it's no going to happen," Gioia said about Oishei's response to Ford.

Oishei died in 1968 at the age of 82.