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Published: Saturday, 7/14/2012

Robert J. Lauer, 1921-2012: Engineer spoke 4 languages, was Navy officer


Robert J. Lauer, 91, an electrical engineer and a former vice president of engineering at Haughton Elevator who was proud of his service as a Naval officer, died Wednesday in Sunset House.

His wife, Mary Ann, attributed death to "plain old age. He always wanted to get to be 91."

Mr. Lauer of Ottawa Hills retired in 1987 as corporate vice president of engineering at Schindler-Haughton, as the firm was known then. He joined Haughton Elevator Co. in 1962 and rose through the ranks. He was promoted to vice president of engineering in 1967.

He spoke French, German, and Spanish and, after Schindler bought Haughton Elevator in the late 1970s, he attended several meetings a year at the company's Swiss headquarters, his wife said.

He held elevator-related patents, was a member of industry safety committees, and in retirement was an expert witness in lawsuits related to elevators and escalators.

He began his career with A. Bentley & Sons, a general contracting firm where his father, Fred Lauer, was executive vice president. The elder Mr. Lauer directed the design and engineering of such structures as the Park Lane Hotel and the Board of Trade Building, and was active in the construction of several Toledo Edison generating plants, Central Catholic High School, Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, Toledo Hospital, and the former Lasalle & Koch department store.

He was born June 24, 1921, to Albina and Fred Lauer. He was a graduate of Central Catholic and attended the former DeSales College in North Toledo. He was admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy in July, 1941, as his brother Thomas began his final year at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He graduated in 1944 and served aboard the USS San Jacinto during the fierce last year of World War II in the Pacific Theater. He later served with the command of the Atlantic Fleet and in the Mediterranean and stateside. He resigned at the end of the Korean War.

He was a member of the American Legion Toledo post and gave talks about World War II. He staunchly defended conservative causes and the military in letters to The Blade "Readers' Forum."

"He really loved everything military," his wife said.

He was a watercolorist skilled at depicting buildings and a glass blower who made vases, jars, mugs, dishes.

At Christmas, "everybody looked for a present from his glass blowing," his wife said.

He was formerly married to the late Phyllis Lauer.

Surviving are his wife, Mary Ann Lauer, whom he married in December, 1984; sons, Robert, Thomas, Christopher, and Peter; daughters, Jeanne Williams, Janice Miller, and Carolyn Petrie; brother, Dr. Daniel Lauer; sister, Carol Harms; 16 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. today in Gesu Church. Arrangements are by the Walker Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to Heartland Hospice.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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