Earl W. Schultz Sr., pioneer in construction prefabrication

February 10, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Earl W. Schultz Sr., who helped revolutionize the construction industry during World War II through prefabrication, died in his sleep Sunday at a nursing home in Hanover, Pa. He was 93.

Mr. Schultz was chairman and consultant to Care Homes Inc., RMS Inc., and was vice president of Wesley Construction Co., all family-owned companies. The Hampstead resident worked until he was 86 as a construction superintendent and field manager.

He had retired in 1988 after a 40-year career with the Henry J. Knott Cos. He also was known for decades of work with the Gideon ministries.

The Carroll County native started out on the family farm, cutting railroad ties, raising hay and potatoes and working as a huckster in Baltimore selling vegetables.

For a time, he delivered mail in Carroll County by horse and buggy, but when he became an apprentice carpenter for an uncle, he found what would become his life's work.

"While working on houses in Guilford [in Baltimore] with all of those crazy roofs with hips and valleys, it occurred to him that it would be easier to cut and number those precision pieces in advance, and then all the carpenters had to do was nail them together," said a son, Aubrey M. Schultz of Hampstead.

At the beginning of World War II, Mr. Schultz went to work for the G. Walter Tovell Construction Co. in Baltimore, where his prefabrication idea resulted in the mass production of critically needed housing to offset the demands of the war effort. His work took him to military bases and war plants all over the nation, where because of his assembly line methods 10 houses a day could be erected and completed.

When the war ended, modular housing continued to be sent to war-ravaged Europe as part of the Marshall Plan, as well as used domestically. "Houses were prefabbed, packed in 21-ton packages and sent by rail car to ports, where they were placed aboard ships and sent to Europe," said Mr. Schultz.

He went to work for Henry J. Knott Sr. and helped the firm make the transition to residential work in the post-war period, building affordable housing in the Washington-Baltimore area.

Henry J. Knott Jr., president of Henry J. and Marion I. Knott Foundation, called him "a meticulous man and a great motivator who continued to do all job scheduling in longhand. He refused to use the computer. He always wanted the work done in a quality manner and insisted that quality didn't have to be sacrificed to speed."

"He didn't play golf, tennis or racquetball. Work was his hobby," said his son. "He came along in a different time when work was the only thing."

A deeply religious man, Mr. Schultz also was known internationally for his philanthropic support of Christian ministries worldwide. He was a lifelong member of Shiloh United Methodist Church in Hampstead, where he held numerous positions in the church.

A 1951 graduate of the Baltimore School of the Bible, Mr. Schultz was a member and held numerous offices over the years in the Mountain View Bible Camp for Children, Hampstead Youth for Christ, Child Evangelism Fellowship of Maryland and the Sandycove Bible Conference.

As a member of the Gideons International, he and his wife, the former Esther Walsh, whom he married in 1922, traveled to 43 countries helping to establish the Gideon ministry. Mrs. Schultz died last year.

Services were held Thursday at Shiloh United Methodist Church. Mr. Schultz is survived by two other sons, Earl W. Schultz of Glen Ellen, Ill., and Roger L. Schultz of Hampstead; a daughter, Linda L. Long of Reisterstown; a brother, Marion Schultz of Fairfax County, Va.; a sister, Anna Schultz of Hampstead; nine grandchildren; and 20 great-grandchildren.

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