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Published: Friday, 7/15/2005

Departed family's name will endure

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A street sign in Ottoville, at left, has been one of the few remaining traces of the Winkelman family, which once was prominent in the village. A street sign in Ottoville, at left, has been one of the few remaining traces of the Winkelman family, which once was prominent in the village.
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OTTOVILLE, Ohio - After Richard J. Winkelman died at 81 in November, the only trace of his once-prominent family name was a street sign in this Putnam County village.

Despite the family's best efforts - Mr. Winkelman was adopted in 1926 and raised by two unmarried sisters - the former University of Toledo faculty member never married, never had children.

The irony was not lost on Stephanie Heitmeyer and her brother, Jim Niedecken, close family friends who inherited much of Mr. Winkelman's estate.

"They adopted a child to work on the farm and carry on the family name, and he couldn't," Ms. Heitmeyer said. "He was a pianist. He was an intellectual. He was not a farmer."

Richard Winkelman poses with the two sisters who adopted him and raised him in Ottoville, Mary Louise Winkelman, seated, and Rose Winkelman. Richard Winkelman poses with the two sisters who adopted him and raised him in Ottoville, Mary Louise Winkelman, seated, and Rose Winkelman.
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She and her brother think they have found a way to carry on the family name despite reaching the end of the Winkelman line.

With the proceeds from an auction of Mr. Winkelman's belongings and family heirlooms on July 20, Ms. Heitmeyer and Mr. Niedecken plan to establish the R.J. Winkelman Scholarship Fund. Beginning in 2006, it will provide scholarships for seniors at Ottoville High School who intend to go into a health-care field.

"Here was a family that was so concerned about having their name live on, but my brother and I are stepping up and keeping the name alive at least with a scholarship," Ms. Heitmeyer said.

Mr. Niedecken said he had discussed the idea of a scholarship with Mr. Winkelman, but he died from congestive heart failure before the plans took shape.

"I was a little shocked he wanted the scholarship to go to health care," Mr. Niedecken said. "I would've thought it would have been for the arts."

Mr. Winkelman was a teacher and librarian who played piano by ear and was passionate about the opera and ballet. Still, when he had to be hospitalized and spend the last few months of his life at a Delphos nursing home, he learned first-hand about the nursing shortage and the need for good medical care, Ms. Heitmeyer said.

Although details about how the scholarship will be awarded have not been finalized, Ms. Heitmeyer said they hope it will be a sizable amount, perhaps even enough to cover one-year's tuition with preference for students planning to attend UT, where Mr. Winkelman received his master's degree and taught, and Bowling Green State University, where he received his bachelor's degree in education.

Ottoville Local Schools Superintendent Ken Amstutz said he was happy to hear about the scholarship, which is likely to be the largest local scholarship available to Ottoville students.

"Mr. Winkelman was a big supporter of the schools, very well-known in the community, very much into the educational part of things, and definitely valued education," Mr. Amstutz said.

Stephanie Heitmeyer stands in front of the Winkelman home in Ottoville. She was a close friend of Richard Winkelman, the last member of the Winkelman family.
Stephanie Heitmeyer stands in front of the Winkelman home in Ottoville. She was a close friend of Richard Winkelman, the last member of the Winkelman family.
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Mr. Winkelman graduated from BGSU in 1950 then taught history and biology in Kalida, Coldwater, and the former Olney High School in Northwood. He began working at UT's Carlson Library in 1965 and he earned his master's degree in library science in 1968.

He was an instructor of library administration and later an assistant reference librarian at Carlson, where he worked until 1982.

Ms. Heitmeyer said he ultimately returned to Ottoville to take care of his aging mother and aunt who both lived well into their 90s. Known as an eccentric in this town of 873 people, Mr. Winkelman and his ancestors amassed a house full of antiques, glassware, coins, and items related to the British royals - another of his interests.

Since his death, some of his collections have been sold or donated. Ms. Heitmeyer said she gave his extensive collection of opera, classical, and ballet recordings to BGSU's theatre department, and a large collection of sheet music to the University of Illinois. Some items of local interest, including a black wool suit that was worn by family patriarch Mathias Winkelman in an 1860 photograph, will be donated to the Putnam County Historical Museum in Kalida.

"They were very much savers," Ms. Heitmeyer said of the Winkelmans.

She added that it took about three months to go through the contents of the house.

"Out of every room in the house, three of the four walls had bookshelves just filled," she explained.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-353-5972.



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