KEHRL--Howard Harmon. Former General Motors Vice Chairman, age 90, passed away peacefully on October 1, 2013 at his home in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Born February 2, 1923 in Detroit, he was raised by his mother Martha, who had emigrated from Germany. The Great Depression was a very challenging time for the family. Fortunately, Howard was an excellent student and earned a scholarship to Wayne State University. At Wayne State, he met the love of his life, Mary Katherine Maloney. Howard and Mary were happily married for 67 years and raised four children. An affinity for cars and all things mechanical distinguished Howard from an early age. He enjoyed fast cars in his teens and supported himself in school by selling cars he rebuilt. His career at General Motors began in the Research Laboratories in 1948. Positions at Cadillac, Chevrolet and Oldsmobile eventually led to his appointment as Chief Engineer and then General Manager of Oldsmobile. Later, he became Executive Vice President in charge of the General Motors technical and planning staffs and responsible for the company's international operations, before assuming the Vice Chairman post from 1981 to 1986. Howard was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in recognition of his contributions to automotive science and engineering. Howard left Wayne State to enlist in the Navy during World War II. Commissioned an Ensign after completing the Naval Officers Training Program, he taught engineering courses in the Notre Dame Midshipmen's School. He earned engineering degrees from Illinois Institute of Technology (Bachelors) and the University of Notre Dame (Masters). Later, General Motors sponsored him as a Sloan Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he achieved his Master's degree in industrial management. Boards on which Howard served included the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, General Motors, the GM Cancer Research Foundation (where he served as Vice Chairman), Target Corporation (lead outside director), and the United Negro College Fund (Chairman of the Board). Howard and his wife Mary created an endowed scholarship fund at Wayne State for undergraduate science and engineering students, and have been active supporters of Bravo, a theatre support group, and other charitable organizations. Many of Howard's happiest times involved his family and the outdoors. His favorite places included Michigan's Walloon Lake; the mountains of Colorado and the Pacific Coast in California. Memorable vacations included cross country treks in the family car. He is fondly remembered for his use of the principles of torque and other engineering concepts in teaching his family to ski. Another vehicle for sharing his love of the outdoors was what his grandchildren called Camp Grandpa Bud (a family nickname), time alone with their grandfather including wilderness camping adventures. Howard and Mary particularly loved the grandeur of the mountains, and spent their early retirement years in Aspen, Colorado before settling in California. Howard is survived by his wife Mary; his children Dr. John Kehrl (Dr. Claudia Cicala), Dr. Howard Kehrl (Pamela Moore), David Kehrl (Alida) and Kathy Blenko (David); his grandchildren Tom, Brian, Jason, Ryan, Laura, Jenny, Peter and Matthew and six great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by two sisters, Dorothy and Judy. The memorial service will be held at Wayfarer's Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes, California at 5:30pm on Sunday, October 13, 2013. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Wayne State University (c/o Wayne State University Fund Office, 5475 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48202).
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Published in The New York Times on Oct. 13, 2013