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Published: Friday, 10/14/2005

Chief Blade mechanic wrote car-care column

WILLISTON - Lyle Grosjean, 77, retired head mechanic of The Blade who offered his expertise to readers as writer of the car-care column, Autoline, which ran Sundays for a quarter-century, died yesterday in his home from liver failure.

He'd been in ill health for four years. Osteoporosis was discovered after he crushed vertebrae while lifting bags of concrete.

"That started the whole cycle," his daughter Jackie Hill said. Afterward, he broke a hip, an ankle, a shoulder, none of which healed completely. Still, he got around on an electric cart, and ramps were built into his home in Ottawa County's Allen Township and his place on Lake Erie near Port Clinton.

"He was in a lot of pain and a lot of discomfort for a long time," his daughter said. "He did as much as he definitely could."

He retired in 1994 after about 35 years in The Blade garage. When he was hired, his father-in-law, Floyd Culp, was head mechanic. Mr. Grosjean took the top job several years later, when Mr. Culp retired.

He oversaw a fleet of more than 40 delivery trucks and about six company cars and was responsible for making sure they ran properly. He was consulted when the company bought trucks, said LaMar Burkin, his successor as head mechanic and a friend for more than 30 years.

"He was a very, very good mechanic," Mr. Burkin said. "He was never hyper. He was always a low-profile guy. He would work with you.

"If there was a problem, he wouldn't give up until it was solved," he said. "He was hands-on. He didn't read it out of a book."

Mr. Grosjean's wife, Bessie, said: "He had to make everything work perfectly."

He began the column in the early 1970s at the suggestion of Paul Block, Jr., The Blade's late publisher. Mr. Grosjean would select two or three letters to answer weekly in his column. But even if he received a dozen questions or more, he answered every letter, usually by telephone.

Off-duty, he got phone calls from all over the country. Readers often stopped him and asked for a diagnosis of their automotive ills by imitating the sound their car made.

"He'd say, 'I know what that is,'‚óŹ" his daughter said. "He knew cars inside and out."

He continued to write the column for several years in retirement.

Mr. Grosjean gained his knowledge of mechanics as a youth - the fourth of seven children - working on the family farm in Lucas County's Jerusalem Township. He completed eighth grade and focused on farm work.

Later, he did mechanical and body work for about 18 years at Tank Motors in Genoa. He kept a fleet of vans, cars, and trucks at home, which he often picked up in disrepair and restored.

One project became physical therapy. A 1974 Volkswagen Beetle arrived disassembled and in boxes aboard a flatbed truck. Working on the Bug restored dexterity that he lost after a stroke in the late 1990s.

He and his wife still lived in the home he built in the early 1950s. He was a self-taught musician and played the organ and accordion. He was a pie baker and candy maker; peanut butter was a specialty.

He owned a series of boats over the years and liked to cruise and fish Lake Erie. Until five years ago, he went snowmobiling in northern Michigan with Mr. Burkin and other friends.

"He was a sweet man who would do anything for you and loved his family very much," his daughter said.

Surviving are his wife, Bessie, whom he married Oct. 9, 1948; son, David; daughters, Suzanne Gladden and Jacqueline Hill; sisters, Alice Kaseman, June Schmidt, and Theresa Skilliter; eight grandchildren; and four great-grandsons.

Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow in the Robinson-Walker Funeral Home, Genoa, where the body will be after 2 p.m. today.

The family suggests tributes to the Allen-Clay Joint Fire District Station No. 1 in Williston or Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, of which he was a member.



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