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Published: Monday, 7/18/2011

Wilhelm Brettschneider, 1935-2011: Pool company founder was '91 entrepreneur of year

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Wilhelm "Bill" Brettschneider, a German immigrant who founded and operated Olympic Pools on Conant Street in Maumee for almost four decades, died of cancer in his home on Saturday. He was 76.

His wife, Siglinde "Linda" Vaughn, said he was diagnosed with colon cancer three years ago and that it had spread to his liver.

"He was an honest man. You could count on him," she said. "If he gave his word, he gave his word."

Born April 8, 1935 in Bremen, Germany, Mr. Brettschneider emigrated to the Detroit area in 1954 when he was 19.

As a young man in Germany, he worked briefly as an electronic engineer for a radio factory. He worked in television repair upon his arrival in the United States.

He migrated over to the pool business in 1965 with some friends in Detroit and stayed in that line of work for the next several decades, opening his own retail store on Conant Street in Maumee in 1973.

Originally known as Blue Water Pools Inc., it was renamed Olympic Pools Inc., and later was known as Olympic Pools & Spas Inc. The firm initially specialized in above-ground pools but later was expanded to include in-ground pools.

In 1980, Mr. Brettschneider began manufacturing swimming pools in the Toledo area. He built his own manufacturing facility in Perrysburg Township in 1984.

In one of several interviews he gave The Blade over the years, he said he got his tireless work ethic from his parents while he was growing up in Germany.

He said in 1993 he often worked 12 hours a day and many weekends.

Mr. Brettschneider said he attended trade schools as a youth and that he "learned the value of work and to appreciate money," and that his father -- a self-employed butcher-shop owner -- was an example to him.

His wife described him as a quiet and serious man who worked hard at maintaining his business. She said he played soccer as a youth and loved old movies, including Westerns. He especially enjoyed movies featuring John Wayne, she said.

Mr. Brettschneider also liked to travel to various places, such as his winter home in Clearwater Beach, Fla.

He sold his business in 2000 but continued to work in sales and management through 2006.

Mr. Brettschneider was named a northwest Ohio Entrepreneur of the Year in 1991. He also won awards for pool design from the National Spa and Pool Institute, including a National Gold Medal for pool design in 1981. During his career, he installed more than 4,000 pools. The locally made pools were sold throughout the United States and as far away as Japan.

Survivors include his wife, Siglinde "Linda" Vaughn, daughters Erika Balogh, Barbara Bartoloni, and Tina Hynous, step-daughter Elke French, and five grandchildren.

Visitation is from 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Maison-Dardenne-Walker Funeral Home, 501 Conant St., Maumee, with funeral services at 10 a.m. Thursday.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio, 30000 River Rd., Perrysburg.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.



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