COLLINS, Ohio - Alex Winkler, an Army veteran who owned his own construction company, died of lung cancer Thursday in his home here. He was 68.
Mr. Winkler, a native of Norwalk, Ohio, spent the majority of his childhood in an orphanage because his father died and his mother was unable to support him and his 10 brothers and sisters.
Eleanore Winkler, his wife of 45 years, said she met her husband one day almost 50 years ago when her brother “brought him home.”
“He was just kind of floating around, and my brother brought him home and asked my mother if he could stay, and she said yes,” said Mrs. Winkler, who was 14 at the time - four years younger than Mr. Winkler. “I kind of had a crush on him.”
He spent two years in Germany in the Army.
Mr. Winkler and his future wife stayed in touch during his time in Germany.
It was the 1950s, and peace time, when he enlisted. Mr. Winkler enjoyed his time in Germany because it allowed him to see things he wouldn't have seen otherwise, she said.
He returned in 1956 and attended a semester of classes at Bowling Green State University, but his wife said he quit because “he just couldn't handle it, just sitting there.”
He then began working as a foreman at the Paul E. Bleile Co. in Norwalk.
The couple married a year later and eventually had six children. In 1965, Mr. Winkler decided to sell the family's home and buy a hog farm.
“He said, `We need to teach our kids responsibility,' so we sold our house and bought a farm and decided to buy hogs,” Mrs. Winkler said. “It taught them a lot of responsibility.”
His career in construction began taking off, and he became the superintendent of Lake Erie Construction Co. in 1971. He quit that job in 1976 and moved to Collins to start his own construction business, the A.A. Winkler Co. The couple owned the business for about six years, until 1982, when they decided to move to Florida.
During his five years in Florida, Mr. Winkler spent much of his time on his airboat, scouting for alligators.
He had learned to fly in Ohio and, over the course of his life time, bought two small planes, and he sometimes flew them to business meetings and different jobs, his wife said.
The couple returned to Collins in 1987 because they missed the area, as well as their children and grandchildren, Mrs. Winkler said.
Most recently, he was an employee of Lake Erie Construction, where he worked in the office. He had been employed there since his return from Florida.
Surviving are his wife, Eleanore; sons, Alexander, Jr., Mark, and William; daughter, Ellen Fitch; brothers, Melvin, Richard, and Robert; sisters, Betty Cox, Lois Mann, Mary Winkler, and Ruth Esker, and seven grandchildren.
The body will be in the Walker Funeral Home, Norwalk, after 2 p.m. tomorrow. Services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in Collins United Methodist Church.
The family requests tributes to the Stein Hospice Service.