Lawrence Thieben, a chemist with a penchant for model trains and vintage cars, who often volunteered with a project for helping the homeless, died Sunday following a battle with brain cancer. He was 54.
Mr. Thieben, a researcher for automotive finishes at BASF Corp., secured nine patents for chemicals, with one pending, over his 35-year career. In 2001, he and several colleagues won a patent for epoxy-urethane imine and hydroxyl primer, chemicals involved with automobile primer coating.
The interest dated back to his childhood, when he would play with chemistry sets, said his sister, Jane Molnar of Charlotte. But outside work, he busied himself with vintage cars, house renovations, a model train set - anything to keep himself occupied, family members said.
For 25 years, he painstakingly restored a 1953 MG sports car, and spent another three to four years on a similar project, a 1974 AMC Javelin, with his son, David Thieben.
The elder Mr. Thieben could "install, build, repair, or paint almost anything," family members recalled, and had a knack for finding such projects as erecting a pier on his mother's lake in Indiana.
More recently, the Indiana Institute of Technology graduate remodeled his home's kitchen and family room, sometimes spending 15-20 hours per week on such projects. He collected roughly 50 model trains, along with the miniature toy houses, trees, and other objects that accompany sets.
"In his free time, he was always working on something," the younger Mr. Thieben said. "He would never really sit still. He was almost a workaholic."
The work also included volunteering with his wife with the Interfaith Hospitality Network, a group dedicated to helping low-income and homeless families nationwide gain lasting independence.
An avid outdoorsman and runner, Mr. Thieben participated in several dozen 30K races and a marathon. Mrs. Molnar said.
Surviving are his wife, Susan; daughter, Sara Green; son, David Thieben; sisters, Jane Molnar, and Judy Miller, and granddaughter, Ellen Rebecca Green.
The family will receive guests from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Maison-Dardenne-Walker Funeral Home, 501 Conant St., Maumee, and funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at First Presbyterian Church in Waterville.
Interment will be held in Wakeman Cemetery in Waterville.
Contributions in Mr. Thieben's name should be made to Collingwood Presbyterian Church, or the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, 2711 Middleburg Dr., Suite 104, Columbia, S.C. 29204.