Kenneth J. Carstensen, who co-owned a Toledo machine shop for 30 years and was a Start High School athlete who was recruited to play football at Ohio University, died from pancreatic cancer Thursday at Hospice of Northwest Ohio in Perrysburg Township.
Mr. Carstensen, 60, lived in Maumee and Cape Coral, Fla.
His wife, Sue, said he was diagnosed with the cancer about a year ago and underwent surgery and other treatments.
He was born Dec. 12, 1952, in Toledo to Walter and Louise Carstensen.
He was a 1970 graduate of Start, where he played football, basketball, and baseball. He was heavily recruited and chose Ohio University, which awarded him a full scholarship, said Sue, his high school sweetheart, whom he married July 20, 1974.
His older brothers Chip and Bill were also outstanding football players for Start.
Mr. Carstensen, who played safety, was one of five City League products who were starters in the 1973 Bobcats lineup.
He graduated from Ohio University in 1974 with a degree in business and received his master’s of business administration from the University of Toledo a year later.
In 1978, while working at the former Bingham Stamping Co., he and a co-worker, Ray Chicolini, purchased C.J. Schneider Mfg. Co., a long-established Toledo company.
“He always wanted to be his own boss,” Mrs. Carstensen said.
C.J. Schneider manufactured cake breakers, cheese cutters, and did some machine tooling in a small building on Roosevelt Avenue, east of the University of Toledo.
Cake cutters, invented by Toledoan Cale Schneider, Sr., slice sponge cakes without squashing the confection.
Mr. Carstensen and Mr. Chicolini expanded the business into automotive parts, largely as subcontractors for other Toledo-area firms, Mr. Chicolini said, while phasing out the kitchen products, which were fading in popularity.
Mr. Carstensen worked as the firm’s controller and accountant while Mr. Chicolini handled the tooling and machining aspects.
Mrs. Carstensen said her husband worked from early morning to late at night during the early years of ownership.
“They were running everything until they were able to hire more employees,” she said.
Under their leadership, C.J. Schneider went from four employees to 15 before moving nearby to larger space on Westwood Avenue. The firm had up to 30 employees when the decision was made to close the business in 2006.
New Mather Metals at the time provided most of the work for C.J. Schneider.
When New Mather closed its Toledo plant and moved its work in-house to a new facility in Tennessee, Mr. Carstensen and Mr. Chicolini made the decision to close instead of seeking new sources of work.
The auto industry was in a slump at the time, and the two decided the right move was to close, Sue said.
“They were lucky to walk away before everything crashed,” she said. “He said, ‘I’m done, I’m leaving.’ They were able to walk away. They made a good choice.”
Mr. Carstensen was generous with his money and time. He was president of the Springfield High School Athletic Boosters while his children attended school there.
“He did a ton of work over there,” Mr. Chicolini said.
Mr. Carstensen didn’t forget the scholarship opportunity he received from Ohio University, and was a financial backer for his alma mater, his wife said.
He often loaned money to friends and to people who wanted help starting businesses, she added.
“He felt that if he could afford it, and he was in a position to loan out some money, he would,” his wife said.
He golfed, played softball, fished, and participated in numerous other outdoor activities.
Surviving are his wife of 38 years, Sue; son, Mark; daughter, Sarah; brothers, Bill and Chip; and sisters, Karen Kurtz and Karol and MaryKay Carstensen.
Services will be private. Arrangements are by Blanchard-Strabler Funeral Home.
Tributes are suggested to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.
Contact Jim Sielicki at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050.
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