Wilhelm Alfred Fiedler, a Hungarian native of German heritage who helped found Toledo's German-American Festival and as a mason built homes in town, died Wednesday at his home in West Toledo. He was 86.
His son, Michael Fiedler, said his father died of bladder cancer.
Known by friends and family as “Willi,” Mr. Fiedler was born in 1926 in Sapron, Hungary. He would leave the wreckage of Europe after World War II to start a new life in America. He found that start in Toledo, where he built a life with his family and a home with his hands and where he helped strengthen the foundation of the city's German-American heritage. A street in the GAF Society’s Oak Shade Grove property in Oregon bears his name: Fiedler Lane.
He worked hard, but he was always looking for fun.
“He was one of those guys who always felt you needed to work,” son Michael said. “But after work, he always wanted to play, too.”
At 16, Mr. Fiedler was drafted into the German army during World War II, his son said, and he was captured by American troops.
He served the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp and returned home to Hungary to find his family gone.
He later learned they had moved to the Bavaria region of Germany; Mr. Fiedler located and joined them there. It was in Bavaria that he met his wife, Ursula, to whom he was married for 65 years.
With his wife, three daughters, and $50, he immigrated to Texas in 1952, lured by a farmer who sponsored the move. After Mr. Fiedler worked off his debt, he moved to Toledo, where his brother owned a bricklaying business and provided him a job.
That business failed, but Mr. Fiedler had learned the trade and started his own business with a partner. He owned F & L Mason Contractors for 45 years, retiring when he was 70. He specialized in stonework, his son said, and worked on many homes and restaurants.
Mr. Fiedler found a community of German-Americans in Toledo, many of whom worked in similar trades. The members would help each other build their own homes. After a long day of building, the men would spend the evening together eating and drinking. Many were members of the German and Swiss societies in town and would gather for society picnics on weekends.
Mr. Fiedler was a passionate member of the Greater Beneficial Union and was the District 50 president for 35 years. Those picnics eventually morphed into the annual German-American Festival, first held in 1966 at Raceway Park, said the current festival chairman, Timothy Pecsenye.
“It was meant to put things together and people together with similar interests,” Mr. Pecsenye said.
Mr. Fiedler also helped the festival find a permanent home in Oregon and helped construct the facilities at Oak Shade Grove. He also served stints as festival chairman.
“He was a very self-made person,” Michael Fiedler said. “Not rich in material wealth, but my dad was very rich in friendship and family.”
Mr. Fiedler is survived by his wife, Ursula, brother Ferdinand Fiedler, daughters Gisela Mohr, Irmgard Green, Christine Blackman, and son, Michael Fiedler, as well as 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Visitation is to be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Newcomer Funeral Home, 4150 W. Laskey Road. Services are to begin at 1 p.m. at the funeral home.
The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio.
Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6086.