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Published: Sunday, 3/8/2009

O-I engineer a founder of popular German fest

Hans G. Ersepke, 88, a retired Owens-Illinois technician who helped found the German-American Festival in the 1960s, died Wednesday of apparent heart failure in Perrysburg Care and Rehabilitation Center, where he lived two years.

Mr. Ersepke of Rossford traveled the nation and world for 17 years to install and maintain O-I's bottling machines. He retired in 1985.

"He was a self-made engineer," said his son, Hans. He came to Toledo in 1956 to oversee maintenance of the National Exchange Club headquarters building on West Central Avenue.

He was 6 when he, his parents, and siblings left Germany. They opened a bakery in Chicago and became U.S. citizens. He was an Army veteran of World War II and in Germany he met and married his first wife, Anneliese. The new family moved to Wisconsin.

After settling in Toledo, he joined Teutonia Mannerchor, the men's chorus founded in 1867.

"You believe in the American way, but you value your heritage," his son, also a member, said. "And he loved to sing, and he knew German songs."

He was president when the heads of German and Swiss societies formed the German-American Festival Society. The first of its annual festivals was in 1966.

He belonged to Memorial Lutheran Church in Toledo.

He and his first wife married Nov. 29, 1947. She died Dec. 17, 1989.

Surviving are his wife, Emma, whom he married April 13, 1991; son, Hans J.; daughters, Alice Pleasnick and Heide Drewes; stepson, Chris Nowak; stepdaughters, Frances Nowak, Kathy Powalowski, and Barb Keller; brother, Alfred Ersepke; sisters, Ursula McLaughlin and Charlotte Lux; seven grandchildren; eight step-grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Newcomer Funeral Home, where the body will be after 2 p.m. tomorrow.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

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