WETZEL--Harry Herman, Jr. January 27, 1920--August 14, 2008. Aviation pioneer Harry Herman Wetzel Jr. died on August 14, of complications of old age. He was 88. Harry made important contributions to aerospace, to the wine business, and to his community and the arts. He will be remembered as an engineer's engineer with an extraordinary memory and powerful intellect, coupled with boundless curiosity, impeccable courtesy, and an impish sense of humor. Born on January 27, 1920 in Howard, PA, Harry was the only child of Maude T. and Harry H. Wetzel. His father, a vice president at the Douglas Aircraft company, played a key role in the development and manufacture of the DC3. Harry graduated from Cornell University in 1941 with a bachelors degree in engineering. He then joined the Army Air Force, where he served as an experimental test pilot. In 1945, he married Margaret Kirkpatrick of Hampton, Virginia. They moved to California and in 1946 he joined the Garrett Corporation, a supplier to the burgeoning aerospace industry, as a laboratory technician. In 1963, Harry became president of Garrett and he held the position of CEO when he retired in 1985. Under his leadership, Garrett became the world's largest producer of aircraft auxiliary power units as well as truck and car turbochargers. Harry also initiated the development of a new and very efficient aircraft fanjet engine, which enabled business jets to make the coast-to-coast trip non-stop. Harry was often referred to as "A man with a plan for a fan." In 1962, the Wetzels purchased a piece of land in California's Alexander Valley, on the site of Cyrus Alexander's original homestead. In 1975, they established Alexander Valley Vineyards winery, which, guided by their son Hank, produces premium varietal wines to this day. Harry loved to travel, and up until his death he continued to plan family trips. He was also an excellent cabinetmaker and many members of his family have beautiful pieces of furniture that he made. An avid fisherman and hunter, he was a crack shot with a pistol, rifle and shotgun. He did the New York Times crossword puzzle every day. On the cultural side, he served as chairman of the board of the Los Angeles Performing Arts Council Music Center; as a Trustee of the Donald Douglas Museum and Library; and as a board member of the California Institute of Technology. Beneficiaries of his time and philanthropy also include the Santa Rosa Symphony and the Wetzel Emergency Department at Healdsburg Hospital. He is survived by his children Sally Fallon Morell, Hank Wetzel, Katie Wetzel Murphy, and John Wetzel; his thirteen grandchildren and their spouses; and his three great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 11:00am on Tuesday, August 26 at Alexander Valley Vineyards, 8640 Highway 128, Healdsburg, CA.
Published by New York Times on Aug. 24, 2008.