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Published: Friday, 6/1/2007

Concrete firm's V.P. believed in hard work

Ralph K. Kuhlman, 80, a retired vice president of a family-run concrete company whose products were used to build Toledo landmarks, died Wednesday in his Maumee home of an apparent heart attack.

Mr. Kuhlman continued to serve on the board of Kuhlman Corp. after his 1991 retirement as vice president of operations, said his son, Kenneth Kuhlman.

"He always felt that the company was bigger than one person and that opportunities should be given to younger people to move up in the company and earn a livelihood from it," said his son, who is Kuhlman's vice president of sales.

Kuhlman concrete and building products were used to build such structures as Scott and Waite high schools, the Commodore Perry Hotel, the Anthony Wayne Bridge, Government Center, and Fifth Third Field.

Mr. Kuhlman had a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Toledo, but he preferred the production side of the family business.

His grandfather, Adam Kuhlman, was vice president of a predecessor firm formed in 1901. He became the company's president in 1916 and formed Kuhlman Builders Supply and Brick Co. several years later.

He and the company shared a name, but he had no sense of entitlement.

His son recalled a favorite expression of Mr. Kuhlman's: "If you're feeling you're important, don't show up tomorrow. There are capable people who will take your spot."

"He felt that to go in the family business, you needed a love for that business," his son said. "He had a strong belief that to make the company succeed, it took hard work."

Mr. Kuhlman was a former president of the Ohio Ready Mix Concrete Association.

He served stateside in the Army Air Corps during World War II.

Surviving are his wife, Lois, whom he married on Aug. 6, 1949; son, Kenneth Kuhlman; daughters, Cheryl Kuhlman, Karen Hinkson, and Beth Davis; brother, Carl Kuhlman, and nine grandchildren.

The body will be in the Bersticker-Scott Funeral Home after 2 p.m. today. Services will begin at 10 a.m. tomorrow in Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, where he had been on the church council and on finance and endowment committees.

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



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