Ernest Wilburn Crum, Sr., 89, who once owned a southwest Toledo filling station and who later, with his son, founded a machine-tool shop that now employs several dozen people in Waterville, died Friday in the Spring Meadows Extended Care Facility, Holland.
Mr. Crum is believed to have died of complications from pneumonia, said his son, Ernest, Jr. He had lived in the nursing home since December.
Mr. Crum and his wife, the former Fannie Hensley, lived for many years on Reynolds Road, not far from the Marathon station at Reynolds and Bancroft Street that he and a cousin briefly operated together after the couple moved their family to Toledo from West Virginia in 1961.
The younger Mr. Crum said the cousins went their separate ways after a couple of years in business together, only to have his father take over the station a few years later after a brief stint working for Toledo Concrete Pipe Co.
But after he was laid off from a job with Surface Combustion Corp. in 1984, when that firm closed a plant on Dorr Street, Mr. Crum and his son decided to go into business together and founded RC Custom Bending.
They started out making mandrels for forming curved rubber hoses, such as those used in automotive cooling systems, in the 2½-car garage at the house, said the son, who recalled starting up at the request of someone he knew at Cooper Rubber Products.
“I told him, ‘My dad and I could do that,’ ” the younger Mr. Crum said. “They gave us little things to do first, to see what we could do, and just kept giving us a little more.”
Once the business got on its feet, Mr. Crum retired, leaving its operations to his son and a grandson to manage. The younger Mr. Crum in 1986 moved it to larger quarters in downtown Waterville, then in 1996 built a new plant in Waterville’s Farnsworth Industrial Park.
At its 2008 peak, the company employed 38 people before making deep cuts during the recent recession, Mr. Crum’s son said. It now employs about 28 and is working to diversify its product line.
Mr. Crum was born in the hamlet of Crum, W.Va., and joined the Army during World War II.
He returned to West Virginia coal country after his 1945 discharge and, while starting his family there, Mr. Crum had a variety of business interests, including a timber business, sawmill, and grocery store, his son said.
“He could befriend anyone,” the younger Mr. Crum said. “I was proud of him. He always had some kind of business going.”
Though only educated through his junior year of high school, Mr. Crum read a lot and taught himself to do many things, his son said. He once built his own house, and also built motorized go-karts for his children at a time when that was unusual.
Mrs. Crum died in 2000 after 57 years of marriage.
Surviving are his sons, Ernest, Jr., and Allen, Sr.; daughter, Vivian Farris; five grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 5-8 p.m. today at the Peinert-Dunn Funeral Home, Waterville. Funeral services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday in the mortuary.Contact David Patch at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6094.
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