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Published: Sunday, 6/30/2002

Watch repairman was paratrooper in World War II

TIFFIN - Marion Edward Whitmer, a watch and clock repairman for over 40 years, died of cancer Wednesday in his home here. He was 80.

Mr. Whitmer was born March 27, 1922, in Tiffin, where he lived all of his life except for his time in military service during World War II as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. He was awarded a Purple Heart after he was hurt seriously by shrapnel in the Netherlands.

After the war, Mr. Whitmer worked in a Chevrolet automotive repair shop in Tiffin for a few years, where he was known as “the best around. ... He could repair anything back to new,” his daughter, Caroline Thom, said.

Mr. Whitmer had the two most valuable skills for working with his hands - he was ambidextrous and infinitely patient. He worked for almost 30 years as a machinist at National Machinery in Tiffin.

In the evenings and on weekends, he and his wife, Helen Whitmer, operated Marion's Watch and Clock Repair from their home.

A friend, Dick Vanderhoff - who also introduced Mr. Whitmer to his wife - taught him the trade.

Although he never advertised, over the years people in the community began to recognize Mr. Whitmer as the best watch and clock repairman around, his son Ward Whitmer said.

“He especially had a passion for antique pocket watches,” Mrs. Thom said. `He loved the fact that he could take something that old and bring it back so that our generation could enjoy it.”

Mrs. Thom has vivid childhood memories of “all the clocks chiming at the same time - grandfather clocks, cuckoo clocks, a whole array,” she said.

She and her brother learned a lot about hard work and integrity from their father, Mrs. Thom said.

Mr. Whitmer tried to pique his children's curiosity in watch repair - when they were little, he often gave them a junk watch to take apart and play with - but they had their own interests. So he began training his good friend Frank Callahan to take over the business.

“He was always explicit, patient, and never said a bad thing,” Mr. Callahan said. “I'd screw up 80 per cent of the time, but he only had constructive criticism.”

Despite having two jobs for most of his life, Mr. Whitmer always had plenty of time for his family. He also found time to be a member of Disabled American Veterans Post 34, First Lutheran Church in Tiffin, and Masonic Lodge 77. He was a 32nd Degree Mason.

Surviving are his daughter, Caroline Thom; son, Ward Whitmer; sisters, Pauline Bird and Virginia Bird; nine grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 10 a.m. tomorrow in the Hoffman-Gottfried Mortuary, where the body will be after 2 p.m. today, with Masonic Lodge 77 services this afternoon and a National Machinery Quarter Century Club service at 7 tonight.

The family requests tributes to First Lutheran Church, American Cancer Society, or a charity of the donor's choice.



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