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Published: Monday, 6/9/2003

WW II pilot led county's growth

FREMONT - G. Paul Oberst, an engineer and former economic development director for Sandusky County, died Saturday of cancer at his home here. He was 78.

Mr. Oberst of Fremont became executive director of the Sandusky County Economic Development Corp. in 1986.

As director, he promoted new business in the region with a warm personality that helped him make connections with businesspeople all over the country, his son, Mark, said.

“People just gravitated to him,” his son said.

Mr. Oberst worked hard to help create the Sandusky County Airport in Clyde, and also helped start the Bark Creek Industrial Park, Clyde Commerce Center, and the Shortline Railroad between Woodville and Tiffin.

“What made him so successful in economic development ... was that he was never interested in taking any credit. He was always about getting the project done,” said Bruce Schrader, who served on the development corporation's board of trustees while Mr. Oberst was director.

Even after Mr. Oberst retired in 1993, he filled in as interim executive director several times.

“Paul was always willing to jump in there,” Mr. Schrader said. “There wasn't anything he wouldn't do.”

Mr. Oberst grew up in Sandusky County. He graduated from Gibsonburg High School in 1943 and served as a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. After the war, he went to college, graduating from the University of Toledo in 1952 with a degree in mechanical engineering.

He had a long career as an engineer before tackling economic development. He worked for 27 years at the former Basic Refractories, Inc., in Maple Grove, Ohio.

Mr. Oberst was a design and plant engineer for the company, which processed stone from a local limestone quarry. He designed and repaired much of the machinery at the facility.

Throughout his career he took classes at Terra Technical College, earning degrees in welding and electrical engineering.

“He was on a constant search for knowledge,” his son said.

Mr. Oberst served on the Sandusky County American Cancer Society board and belonged to the local American Legion post, Kiwanis Club, and Moose Lodge. His latest project with Kiwanis was to raise money to start a unicycle club for troubled children.

He was an amateur radio operator and had a passion for flying. He often flew small planes belonging to his friends.

Surviving are his wife, Lois; sons, Stephen, Mark, and Timothy; daughter, Leah Brant; six grandchildren, and four step-grandchildren.

Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in Grace Lutheran Church, Fremont. The body will be in the Keller-Ochs-Koch Funeral Home, Fremont, after 2 p.m. tomorrow, and in the church an hour before services Wednesday.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Memorial Hospital.



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