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Published: 2/13/2006

Engineer was a designer of spark plugs

LAMBERTVILLE - Frank Westenkirchner, 82, a retired director of product development for Champion Spark Plug Co., where he held a number of patents after 35 years, died Friday from complications of congestive heart failure at his son's Bedford Township home.

Mr. Westenkirchner, a mechanical engineer who designed spark plugs for plane and automotive engines, retired from Champion in 1986. A longtime member and former president of the Society of Automotive Engineers, Mr. Westenkirchner spent his career working on design mechanisms of the combustion engine.

In 1972, he oversaw the building and development of a Champion engineering testing facility in Brussels as the company extended its European manufacturing arm.

Born in East Toledo, he attended public schools and graduated from Waite High in 1941. He went on to the University of Toledo, but after his freshman year, enlisted in the military during World War II.

Mr. Westenkirchner served as a radio operator and gunner with the 7th Bomb Group of the Army Air Corps in the Asian Theater, which saw him stationed in Burma, China, India, and Sri Lanka.

"He was a generous and a loving man who showed us that it was good to be strong and to persevere to be the best at what you do," his son Frank said.

He said his father returned to UT after the war and received his bachelor's degree in engineering in 1948, before receiving his master's degree from the University of Michigan in 1949.

Mr. Westenkirchner married the former Delphine Kowalewski on Oct. 14, 1950, and the young couple settled in South Toledo. She died in 1994.

A charter member of St. Patrick of Heatherdowns Church and longtime member of Heather Downs Country Club, Mr. Westenkirchner was an avid golfer and bowler. In retirement, he was a member of a number of golfing and bowling leagues.

His son said his father took up genealogy in his retirement years and was fascinated by researching his family tree back to its German roots, and he was a coordinator of the Waite High class of 1941 reunions.

Surviving are daughters, Joyce and Laura; sons, David, Paul, and Frank; 11 grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.

Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. today in the Walter Funeral Home, 4653 Glendale Ave., with vigil services at 7 p.m. A Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Patrick of Heatherdowns Church.

The family suggests tributes to the church.



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