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Published: Friday, 7/25/2008

Business owner was self-taught engineer

BOWLING GREEN - L. Rex Klopfenstein, 88, a self-trained mechanical and electrical engineer who founded his own small engineering equipment firm, King Industries Inc., died Wednesday at Wood County Hospital.

Family members did not know the exact cause of death, but said he had been suffering from a variety of ailments, including kidney failure, his son, Rex Klopfenstein, Jr., said.

Mr. Klopfenstein presided over King Industries on Lehman Avenue from its start, in 1959, until his retirement 40 years later when the company closed.

The business specialized in the design, production, and sale of equipment for testing automotive parts, and through the years employed five to eight workers at a time, his son said.

The company had clients both large and small, including Ford, Chrysler, and Dura Corp. Mr. Klopfenstein did much of the design work himself, even into his 70s, his son said.

The younger Mr. Klopfenstein said he began working for his father as a teenager, and stayed on until the business closed in 1999.

"We would pick up the specialized [work] that the big companies didn't want. We could do it a lot cheaper," he said.

Mr. Klopfenstein was born in Bowling Green and grew up on a farm along Klopfenstein Road, where his family had been early settlers.

As a youth, he often tinkered with radios and other electronic equipment. During his student days at Bowling Green High School, he gained state recognition for designing an electric fence for farm and dairy herds.

He graduated in 1938, and went on to work as an experimental engineer in electronics for Thompson Aircraft Products Co. in Cleveland.

Mr. Klopfenstein read many technical books and taught himself the trade without university training, his son said.

In 1944, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving as an electricians' mate in the Ship Repair Unit. The following year, while on leave, he married the former Delma Whitnack, who died in 1967. The couple settled after the war in Bowling Green. Before starting out on his own, Mr. Klopfenstein worked for the city's Grieder Industries as well as Rowe Industries in Toledo and the T.J. Bender Co. in Maumee.

Mr. Klopfenstein enjoyed firing rifles and pistols, and until the mid-1980s owned and piloted a single-engine Cessna aircraft.

Surviving are his wife, the former Barbara Appelbaum, whom he married in 1969; sons, Rex Klopfenstein, Jr., and William Klopfenstein; brother, Raye Klopfenstein; three grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. tomorrow in the Dunn Funeral Home, Bowling Green, with a graveside service to follow at Oak Grove Cemetery.

The family suggests tributes to First United Methodist Church in Bowling Green, Shriners Hospitals for Children, or Wheeled Meals Inc. in Bowling Green.



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