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William F. Gittler, Sr. 92

May 26, 2006

William F. Gittler, Sr., 92, of Bloomsburg (Fernville) PA where he had resided since 2000 and formerly of Catawissa PA where he resided since 1957, died Thursday, May 25, 2006 at his residence.  He was born August 29, 1913 in Johannesburg, South Africa as a British citizen.  His mother was the late Marie Madalana Elsa Walter Gittler of Dresden, Germany and his father was the late Francis “Frank” Gutler (Gittler) of Austria-Hungary. 

Along with his mother and sister Else, he immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1919 to Germantown PA and then to Audubon, New Jersey where he graduated from Audubon High School in 1932.  He attended Trenton State Teacher’s College in Trenton, NJ, majoring in Industrial Arts on a football scholarship.  He then transferred to Drexel Institute of Technology (Drexel University) Philadelphia PA where he was a member of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity and editor of the Class of 1938 Yearbook “Lexerd”. 

 In 1936, having no funds for tuition because of the 1930’s Depression, he took a leave of absence for one year to serve in the US Merchant Marines, sailing the US coastline from Savannah GA to Boston MA.  He graduated from Drexel University June 20, 1938 with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. 

Mr. Gittler began his industrial career in 1938 when the unemployment rate was 38%.  In 1938 he was employed as an industrial engineer for Seabrook Farms in New Jersey.  In 1939 he was employed in industrial tooling sales by the York Machine Company in York, PA where he sold machine tools to manufacturers, one being Kennedy Van Saun Danville, PA.  He was then recruited and hired by Kennedy Van Saun in Danville, PA in 1940 to set up the plant, to manufacture 60 mm trench mortars for WWII.  He was then employed by Jacob’s Aircraft, Pottstown PA as an industrial engineer building Pratt & Whitney airplane engines.  On February 3, 1945 Mr. Gittler became a United States of America citizen. During that year he was employed by Westinghouse as an engineer in jet engine production.  In 1946 he was employed as an industrial engineer in the wire cable division of John Roebling & Son, the firm that built the Brooklyn Bridge.  

In 1947, Mr. Gittler purchased Spreading Oak Farm in New Hope PA where he raised tomatoes for Campbell Soup Company.  He was then hired as Plant Manager of Wood Specialty Company in Philadelphia, PA. The company manufactured yellow pine water-tight shipping crates for jet engines. 

In January of 1957, he moved his family to Catawissa PA where he purchased the Catawissa Lumber Company.  He, along with his wife Pauline, incorporated a new manufacturing business on March 4, 1957 called Catawissa Lumber and Specialty Co., Inc. Catawissa PA.    In 1968 he established the Employee College Education Trust Fund.  Mr. Gittler acquired the Paxinos plant in Paxinos PA in 1976 and then acquired the West Jefferson North Carolina manufacturing plant (Plant 3) in 1995.  His positions held at Catawissa Lumber & Specialty Co., Inc. included being President/Owner from 1957-1985 when he officially retired.  In 1986 he was Chairman of the Board of Directors and in 2002 he was elected as Director Emeritus. 

Dedicated to community service and philanthropy, Mr. Gittler served the community by serving for two terms as Director of Bloomsburg Hospital from 1975-1980 and 1983-1988; served as Director of First Columbia Bank and Trust Company from 1968-1994; was the Founding Director and Board Member of Columbia-Montour Home Health Services, Inc. in 1967 where he served two 3-year terms and also was a life member of the Bloomsburg Rotary Club which he joined January 1, 1963.

Mr. Gittler was the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions.  He earned the Eagle Scout Award of the Boy Scouts of America in 1928.  In 1941 he was awarded Life Member – American Ordinance Association which was a national society dedicated to scientific/industrial preparedness for the common defense of the United States.  He was recognized as a “Paul Harris Fellow” by the Rotary Foundation in 1974.  In 1987, Mr. Gittler received the “Richard A. Benefield” Rotarian of the Year Award.  In 1988, he was recognized as “Golden Dragon” Drexel Class of 1938 (50 Years).  He received the “Distinguished Eagle Scout Award of the Boy Scouts of America in 1989 and the “Silver Beaver Award” by the Columbia-Montour Council of the Boy Scouts of America in 2003.  In 2003, the Columbia-Montour Council of Boy Scouts of America dedicated and named its new Council Service Center in honor of William F. Gittler, Sr.  He received his private pilot’s license and was twin-engine rated and instrument-rated, with over 1500 hours as pilot in command. 

Mr. Gittler’s joy in giving began at an early age when he purchased a bicycle for his brother, Frank, who was 10 years younger than he. He was also extremely devoted to his wife and family and adored his grandchildren and great-grandchildren who were the joy of his life.

He married the late Pauline Marie Renner of Danville PA on September 14, 1941 in Pine Street Lutheran Church Danville PA.  They were married 53 years until her death on April 9, 1995.  He is survived by three sons; William F. Gittler, Jr. and his wife Jane of Huntington Mills, PA; Robert P. Gittler, Sr. and his wife Elaine of Elysburg PA and John T. Gittler and his wife Bobbi of Bradenton FL and two daughters; Nancy J. Gittler Krum and her husband Glen W. of Catawissa PA and Annamary Gittler Auker and her husband Frank S. of Bloomsburg PA.  He is also survived by 13 grandchildren and four step-grandchildren.  Also surviving are 14 great-grandchildren and six step-great-grandchildren.  One sister, Else Gittler Fernsler of Kennett Square, PA also survives him.  He was preceded in death by one brother Frank Gittler in June 1981. 

Funeral services will be held Wednesday, May 31, 2006 at 1:00 PM from First Baptist Church 20 Brookside Drive, Danville, PA which is located off of 642 E from Route 54 in Valley Township.  The Reverend Dr. Harry H. Wonderland, Senior Pastor and the Reverend David J. Mouw, Associate Pastor will be officiating.  Burial will follow in Hillside Cemetery Catawissa, PA.  Friends will be received from 6:00 PM until 9:00 PM Tuesday evening at the church and from 11:00 AM until time of the service on Wednesday.  The family will provide flowers.  Memorial contributions may be made to Boy Scouts of America Columbia Montour Council, 5 Audubon Court Bloomsburg, PA 17815; Columbia Montour Home Health and Hospice, 599 E 7th Street Bloomsburg, PA 17815; Rotary Foundation c/o Bloomsburg Rotary Club, PO Box 842, Bloomsburg, PA 17815; or Global Aid Network, PO Box 139020 Dallas, TX  75313-9020.  Arrangements are under the direction of the Visneski Funeral Home, Inc. 10 W Mahoning Street Danville PA.   

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