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Melvin W. Lanzer [1922-2014]; Napoleon man built thriving business

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Melvin Lanzer

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Melvin W. Lanzer, who found success as a builder in the post-World War II housing boom and evolved into a commercial contractor, died Monday in his Napoleon home. He was 92.

Mr. Lanzer was told this month he had cancer. He retired officially in 1987 but had gone to the office every business day until May 1.

“He formed that company. That was his baby,” said daughter Char Zgela, president of Mel Lanzer Co.

He remained chairman of the company, which started in 1951. His own house and garage in Napoleon served as headquarters at first, and the firm built 50 houses a year.

By the late 1950s, the company branched out into churches, then to office buildings, banks, and other commercials structures in multiple counties.

“He just kept growing and growing,” his daughter said.

The Mel Lanzer Co. received an excellence in family business award in 2012 from the Entrepreneurial & Business Excellence Hall of Fame. He’d been named Napoleon’s outstanding citizen of 1971 by the chamber of commerce for his local volunteer service. He served on several boards, among them the county board of developmental disabilities and the Four County Joint Vocational School board. He was was a former president of the Napoleon Rotary Club.

He was born Feb. 24, 1922, to Nettie and Walter Lanzer and grew up on Monroe Township farm. He was a 1940 graduate of Hamler High School. He served in the in Europe during World War II and, wounded in combat, received the Purple Heart.

Surviving are his wife, Margarete “Marge” Lanzer, whom he married April 11, 1948; daughters Cheryl Huffman, Vanessa Lanzer, and Charlotte Zgela; son, Matthew Lanzer; brother, Lavern Lanzer; seven grandchildren, and a great-grandson.

Visitation will be 2-8 p.m. today in the Rodenberger Funeral Home, Napoleon. Visitation will be at 10 a.m., followed by services at 11 a.m. Thursday in Emanuel Lutheran Church, Napoleon, where he was a member.

The family suggests tributes to HOPE Services Foundation or Hospice of Henry County.

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

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