Friday, September 14, 2018

Walter I. (“Mike”) Thieme (September 9, 2018)

Walter Irving (“Mike”) Thieme passed away Sunday, September 9, 2018, in Greenville, Ohio. He was two days from his 98th birthday.

Mike was born September 11, 1920 in Missoula, Montana the only child of Fred Earnest Thieme, Jr. and Ella Claire (Hopkins) Thieme. Christened “Walter Irving” for Ella’s two brothers, his father called him “his little Irish Mick” because of his red hair. The name “Mickey” followed him through college, but later he went by “Mike.” He attended schools in Missoula and was graduated from high school at age 16.

Mike received a mechanical engineering degree from Montana State University in 1942, where he was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity and the Rau Beta Pi engineering honorary. Due to his college participation in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, he entered into military service in the Army Air Corps immediately after graduation. At Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, he was assigned to engineering duties but later was accepted into pilot training and supported the World War II effort by testing the latest military aircraft in Alaska.

After 4-1/2 years of service, he was released and worked for two years as an engineering test pilot for Fairchild Aircraft in Hagerstown, Maryland. He then returned to school at Harvard University and received a Masters Degree in Business in 1949. It was in Cambridge that Mike would meet the love of his life, Jean Louise Hole, of Greenville, Ohio, who was studying in the Management Training Program at Radcliffe College. They were married June 18, 1948 in Greenville. Mike’s first post-graduate job was as an industrial engineer with Crown Zellerbach in Oregon and Washington. The Air Force called him into non-flying service during the Korean War, with engineering duties in Baltimore and Cape Canaveral, Florida.

His military tour of duty over, Mike took a management position with Greenville-based American Aggregates Corporation, a business founded by Jean Louise’s grandfather, Fred Coppock, among others. Mike had a nearly 40-year career with AAC, growing the tri-state business into one of the largest suppliers of sand, gravel, and limestone products in the United States. In 1961, Jean Louise and Mike, then President of AAC, built a home south of Greenville at the “Hills of Judea,” which, along with nearby Wayne Lakes, became a model for restoration and reclamation of gravel lands as valuable home sites. Mike assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer of AAC in 1969 and retired from the position of Chairman of the Board in 1987 when the firm was acquired by a subsidiary of Consolidated Gold Fields.

The Thiemes raised their family in Darke County, Ohio. They were members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where Mike served as Treasurer, Vestryperson, and Senior Warden. They both supported many community causes. In particular, Mike served on the hospital boards of Wayne Hospital (Greenville), Children’s Hospital (Dayton), and 12 years on the Regional Health Planning Council. Recently, he contributed to a new girls’ softball field and expansion of the Brethren Home. In his free time, Mike could often be found cutting and stacking wood, his favorite form of exercise and therapy. He also enjoyed riding horses, swimming, and maintaining a garden and fruit trees, with the added benefit of homemade wine. He and Jean Louise were generous hosts to many gatherings including outdoor church services, New Year’s Eve fireworks, and a Memorial Day fish fry tradition that continues to this day.

In retirement, Mike and Jean Louise enjoyed travelling the world. They built a home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 1990, which became their primary residence, and allowed Mike to return to favorite activities of his Montana youth, such as skiing, hiking the mountains, and big game hunting. He started hiking local peaks in the Tetons and Idaho (including Mt. Borah), but also set his sights further afield. He tackled Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, four times between the ages of 71 and 80; reaching the crater rim (18,638’) three times, the last time at age 80. He went around the rim to the highest point (19,341’) in 1995 at age 74, making the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest climber to achieve that feat. Although not always successful, he loved scouting for and hunting game, resulting in his last elk in Wyoming in the fall of 2008, at age 88.
In Jackson Hole, he and Jean Louise were active members of St. John’s Episcopal Church, where they were instrumental in selecting and acquiring a pipe organ that was installed in 2002. Both served enthusiastically on the board and committees of the Off Square Theatre Company. They threw heart and soul into the vision, planning, fundraising, and executive functions for the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts, ultimately resulting in their names appearing on the performing arts pavilion when it opened in 2007.

Jean Louise passed away following a short illness on September 7, 2009. Mike continued to live mainly in Wyoming until late 2016, when health reasons brought a return to Darke County, Ohio, where he took a residence at the Brethren Home Retirement Community. His intelligence and keen sense of humor remained strong, as did his interest in current affairs and people from all walks of life and cultures. He has been loved and admired by many and will be greatly missed.

Mike is survived by three children, Michael Thieme, of Northridge, California, Rebecca Hartnagle of Greenville, Ohio, and Susan Rope of Idaho Falls, Idaho. He also has two foster daughters, Ilona (Jakabsons) Reif, of Laramie, Wyoming, and Gracie (Hill, Ratliff) Overholser of Greenville; 10 grandchildren; and twelve great-grandchildren. All affectionately call him “Duggle-Duggle,” a phrase he cooed to babies. A veteran storyteller, he has surprised folks even in recent years with ones never heard before. His adventures as a test pilot in Alaska have been documented in a book titled The Rogue Colonel, published in 2016 with his daughter Susan.

In lieu of flowers, donations will be gratefully accepted in his memory to the Music Fund for St. John’s Episcopal Church (Jackson, Wyoming), or the Darke County Foundation (Greenville, Ohio.) A memorial service will be held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 2:00 on Sunday, September 16, with a reception following

Funeral arrangements by Zechar Bailey Funeral Home Greenville, Ohio.

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