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Published: Thursday, 12/18/2008

Dana exec known for ethics, his generosity

Mel Rothlisberger, a longtime executive with Dana Corp., died unexpectedly Monday in his Sylvania Township home of unknown causes. He was 65.

Mr. Rothlisberger had a 37-year career with Dana, retiring in 2005 as vice president of corporate audit.

"Mel oversaw a group of 34 people that included Dana staff in Europe and South America," said Charlotte Murd, his administrative assistant for nine years.

"He was so respected. No one had a bad word to say about him. He was the most ethical person, the most generous. He was a great mentor to the young people, and they maintained their relationships even after they had moved on."

Marti Hunyor, Mr. Rothlisberger's daughter, said her father died during an afternoon nap. He had no known serious health problems.

Mr. Rothlisberger joined Dana after his honorable discharge from the Army, where he served as an artillery lieutenant in Baumholder, Germany.

He was born in Elgin, Ill., and grew up on a farm in Plato Center, Ill., where he learned the ins and outs of agriculture, including how to raise livestock and grow crops, his daughter said.

Mrs. Hunyor said she believed the ethos of self-reliance and hard work he acquired as a farm boy shaped her father as an adult.

"My dad was very much about self-responsibility and helping people help themselves," she said.

Mr. Rothlisberger and his wife, Carlyn, were married for 43 years. Their family moved throughout the Midwest as Mr. Rothlisberger's career with Dana advanced.

They settled in Toledo in 1982, when he took over as the auto parts maker's director of international finance and assistant treasurer.

Mr. Rothlisberger enjoyed golfing, bicycling, and reading, his daughter said. After he retired, he and Mrs. Rothlisberger enjoyed traveling abroad. Their trips included Australia and Norway.

"I've gotten responses from people all over the world since word of his death got out," Mrs. Murd said.

Surviving are his wife, Carlyn; daughters, Marti Hunyor and Nicole Leslie; mother, Vivian Rothlisberger; sister, Linda Pulk, and three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be 11 a.m. Saturday in Sylvania United Church of Christ. The family will receive friends at the Walker Funeral Home from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday.

The family suggests tributes to Heifer International, 1 World Ave., Little Rock, Ark., 72202.



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