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Published: Friday, 3/19/2004

Engineer ventured to achieve very best

Richard C. Teasel, 81, a retired vice president of research and engineering for the Champion Spark Plug Co. who testified before Congress on behalf of the automotive parts industry, died Tuesday in Carolina House of Hilton Head, S.C.

He lived in the assisted-living center about 1 1/2 years and had been in ill health recently. The cause of death was not known, his daughter, Susan Malone, said.

Mr. Teasel, formerly of Ottawa Hills, retired in April, 1984, on the 35th anniversary of his hiring at Champion as a research engineer. He became director of research in December, 1955, and vice president of research and engineering in December, 1967.

He was involved early on in developing spark plugs for race cars and jet engines and other specialized uses.

"I can remember as a child going in and seeing the engine rooms, where they were testing the spark plugs," his daughter said. "This was postwar aircraft designing, and they needed to come up with new spark plugs. He was at the cusp of helping develop a lot of these things."

As Champion was a leader in the industry, Mr. Teasel was a leader in his field.

"He was a key person throughout his whole career," said Richard Kudner, a retired Champion vice president of sales and marketing. "He was just dedicated. He was persistent."

Mr. Teasel was named Automotive Man of the Year in 1975 by the Automotive Warehouse Distributors Association for his efforts to win relief from environmental regulations that the industry saw as unworkable.

Several years earlier, he was approached by the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association to be the co-chairman of a task force to work with the then-new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The task force in time represented six trade organizations, 20,000 parts manufacturers, and 300,000 service outlets. The task force took up 30 percent of his time; he still was expected to fulfill his Champion duties as well. He testified frequently before congressional committees.

"He used to come back, and he'd be so mad at the politicians," his daughter said.

Mr. Teasel defied the stereotype of an engineer in dress and manner, his daughter said. He liked to work with people, and his photographic memory helped him recall jokes for any word or occasion.

"He was trying to move engineering from [being] the whipping boy in the back room to setting the pace," his daughter said. "He worked hard to put a team together that was solving problems. He wanted his team to be the best."

Mr. Teasel was born in Sandusky and moved at 10 with his family to Detroit. He was a graduate of Cooley High School there, the University of Detroit, and the University of Chicago. He received a master's degree from Purdue University.

He was an Army second lieutenant in World War II and served as a meteorologist in Italy, preparing weather forecasts for flight crews in northern Italy, Austria, and Germany.

Mr. Teasel was a member of the Toledo Tennis Club and a former board member of the Toledo Racquet Club.

Mr. Teasel and his wife, Caryl, married Sept. 7, 1946. She died Oct. 31, 1996.

Surviving are his daughter, Susan Malone; brother, William Teasel, and two grandchildren.

Memorial services will be at 10:30 a.m. today in St. Francis by the Sea Church, Hilton Head Island, of which he was a member. Arrangements are by the Island Funeral Home & Crematory.

The family suggests tributes to the Deep Well Project, Hilton Head Island, S.C., or a charity of the donor's choice.



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