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News Death Notice
WIKLE, John J. "JJ" lifelong Eaton resident died peacefully Friday, May 11, at his home from complications of diabetes. He was 81. Born Dec. 31, 1930 in Eaton, to Nellie Evelyn (Miskimens) and Earle Potterf Wikle, JJ was a prominent citizen and a direct descendant of Gasper Potterf and John Wikle, both settlers of Preble County in the early 19th century. Wikle was a 1949 graduate of Eaton High School where he played football and worked on the school newspaper. As a member of the Boys Scouts, he attended camp at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. After graduating high school he attended the University of Dayton before enlisting in the US Marine Corps in 1952. He completed boot camp at Parris Island and eventually was promoted to the rank of sergeant. He spent 18 months in the Korean War with the 1st Marine Division as a combat infantryman and forward observer. After four years as a Marine JJ was honorably discharged and returned to Eaton where he held jobs with City Loan and Parker-Hannifin. In 1958 JJ married Rosina "Rosi" Bertsch whom he met in Eaton three years after she emigrated from Germany. In 1969 JJ was hired as a toolmaker at the Inland Division of General Motors in Vandalia. He retired from GM in 1992 after 23 years. Throughout his working life JJ maintained a military career that spanned 34 years. After serving with the Marines he joined the Ohio National Guard in the mid '50s and attended Officer Candidate School, earning his commission in 1957. The next year he completed a course at the US Armor Tanker School in Fort Knox, Kentucky making him a "tanker." He continued serving in the guard through the early '70s and then transferred to the US Army Reserve, ultimately retiring as a lieutenant colonel. Among the many leadership positions he held over the years were commander of a reconnaissance unit at the Ohio National Guard in Cincinnati and commander of the Richmond, Indiana Army Reserve Instructing Unit. Wikle was very active in numerous local organizations and held leadership positions in most of them. He served multiple terms as commander of the VFW and the American Legion and for more than 25 years was Buckeye Boys State coordinator for Preble County. In that role JJ annually guided as many as one dozen boys from all over the county in the week-long American Legion- sponsored civics exercise. He also recruited local sponsors to pay for the boys' participation in the program, which he loved for its hands-on approach to teaching the basics of democracy and civic responsibility. Wikle also was a member of the Bolivar Lodge #82 of the F&AM of Ohio as well as a member of Visitation Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus (twice grand knight), the Preble County Historical Society (president and trustee), Eaton Alumni Association (president) the National Rifle Association, the Preble County Republican Party, the Reserve Officers Association, the Disabled American Veterans, the US Cavalry & Armor Association and the Marine Corps League. Beyond the military Wikle's passions included politics and history. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1974, but the experience raised his profile in the Republican Party and as a result many politicians, including former Ohio senators Robert Taft Jr. and Mike DeWine and congressmen Thomas Kindness and John Boehner, the current speaker of the house, relied on Wikle to help them with their campaigns. For many years Wikle taught hunter safety in Eaton and in the mid '90s he served as a Red Cross volunteer and as a docent at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton. JJ was extremely knowledgeable about military aircraft, military traditions and history and frequently gave presentations on those topics. He also annually joined other veterans from the area who participated in Veteran's Day observances at Eaton High School. Wikle is preceded in death by Rosi, his wife of 53 years, and his aunt and uncle, Martha (Wikle) and Leonard Boval, and Daisy Wikle, his grandmother, who raised him throughout the Depression and World War II on their farm on Route 35 east of Eaton. He is survived by a brother, Jerry of Eaton, children, Hans Wikle of Rivesville, West Virginia; Gretel Johnston of Munich, Germany; Earle Paul Wikle of West Carrollton, Ohio; Leonard Wikle of Eaton; five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Funeral Mass will be held 12:00 PM Friday, May 18, 2012 at Visitation Catholic Church - 407 East Main Street - Eaton, Ohio with Rev. J. Thomas Fitzsimmons officiating. Interment will be held in Mound Hill Cemetery with full military honors. Family will receive friends on Thursday May 17, 2012 from 2:00 to 8:00 PM and Friday 9:00 to 11:30 AM at Barnes Funeral Home, 220 East Main Street, Eaton, Ohio. Masonic service will be held 8:00 PM and Knights of Columbus at 8:15 PM on Thursday evening. Memorial contributions may be made to the Save The Eaton Tank & Armory Fund % Eaton Foundation, 220 East Main Street Eaton, Ohio 45320. Online condolences may be sent to the family via the Web site at www.barnesfuneralhome.com
Published in Dayton Daily News on May 15, 2012