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Published: Monday, 7/21/2003

Korean War veteran was an engineer for Chrysler

Lester E. “Gene” Dunning, 73, who worked as an engineer 45 years for DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler division, including many years at its Willys-Overland predecessor, died Saturday in St. Joseph's Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor.

Mr. Dunning, a Toledo native who had lived in Ypsilanti, Mich., since the late 1970s, had colon cancer for the last three years. The cause of death was not known.

After graduating from Waite High School, Mr. Dunning enlisted in the Army and served in the 7th Infantry Division during the Korean War, his daughter, Leslie Orr, said. He served as a machine-gunner and fought in five major battles, receiving the Bronze Star and other honors.

In the late 1950s, Mr. Dunning returned to Toledo and began working at Willys-Overland after receiving an engineering degree, Mrs. Orr said.

“He was an engineer who oversaw many affairs for the company,” she said. During his tenure with the company, Mr. Dunning facilitated the start-up of many automotive plants throughout the world and traveled to over 40 countries.

“He really enjoyed traveling to all those places and meeting the people,” Mrs. Orr added.

After moving to Ypsilanti, Mr. Dunning worked for the company in the Detroit area, Mrs. Orr said. He officially retired in 1983, but continued to consult on the design of new vehicle models, she said. He consulted for DaimlerChrysler until six months ago.

Surviving are his mother, Mae Dunning; son, Robert Dunning; daughter, Leslie Orr, and five grandchildren.

The body will be in the Newcomer-Farley Funeral Home after 2 p.m. tomorrow. Services will at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in the mortuary.

The family suggests tributes to the American Cancer Society or a charity of the donor's choice.

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