Werner A. Uebersax

A Polytechnic graduate and World War II veteran, he left the defense industry to become an electronics teacher

December 08, 2010|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

Werner A. Uebersax, a retired Catonsville Community College electronics department chairman and former aeronautical engineer, died in his sleep of stroke complications Saturday at the Blakehurst Retirement Community. He was 91 and had lived in Sparks.

Born in Baltimore, he grew up in the rowhouse alongside his father's Fenwick Bakery, then located off Harford Road near Clifton Park. When he and a brother, Walter, contracted typhoid fever, his father and mother closed the bakery for more than two months and nursed their sons to health.

He was a 1938 Polytechnic Institute graduate and spent his summers at sea in the Naval Reserve. As a student, he showed interests in sailing and flying.

After graduating, he took a job at the old Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River and was the subject of a Jan. 1, 1940, Evening Sun news story.

Mr. Uebersax was flying with William A. Kennedy, an experienced commercial pilot, when their open-cockpit seaplane was forced down in Bear Creek as its carburetor froze in bad weather. News accounts said they could hear a Coast Guard search party, but were unable to gain its attention. They spent 15 hours in 19-degree weather. They eventually made it over the ice and walked to Logan Field, an eastern Baltimore County airport. He was wearing only a business suit.

During World War II, while in the Navy's ROTC program, he earned a bachelor's degree at Drexel University. He later earned a master's degree at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

"After he graduated in 1943, he was activated and went to the University of Minnesota, where he became a '90-Day Wonder' — graduating as an officer," said his son, Werner B. Uebersax of Parkton.

Assigned to the Pacific, Mr. Uebersax headed a Carrier Aircraft Support Unit of 500 mechanics and pilots. They island-hopped toward Japan in 1944 and 1945.

After the war he met his future wife, Sarah "Penny" Bechtel, who lived in Hamilton. They courted while dancing at local venues, such as Gwynn Oak Park.

He worked in engineering in research and development at Western Electric, AAI, Koppers and the Bendix Radio Corp. In the 1950s, he returned to the Martin Co. as an advanced design engineering team member and worked on classified military projects during the Cold War.

He received a citation from the secretary of the Navy for his work.

"He worked on government projects that were top secret that I never knew about," said his wife. "I remember once for several days he and co-workers were out in our woods in the backyard making a wooden model of a missile that was to be shot out of a submarine. One day he came home from work and said to me, 'Penn, I had to design a weapon and was asked how many people it will kill. This is not me. I have to get out of this business.'"

He resigned and went into teaching. Family members said he never looked back.

He initially taught at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School and later found a job at what was then Catonsville Community College. He was part of its electronics program and went on to be department chair. He retired as a professor in 1984.

In 1958, Mr. Uebersax decided that his neighborhood needed a swim club. When the bank would not give him a loan, he made calls to neighbors and friends and raised the funds needed to buy land and build the Pine Ridge Swim Club on Old Harford Road.

"My grandfather was a man of humility. He treated everyone with great kindness and always with a smile on his face and a great story or joke to share," said his granddaughter, Stacey Uebersax of Timonium. "He was happiest when building things and he loved being on the water."

Mr. Uebersax built and repaired sailboats throughout his life. He bought his first boat, a used Star, at the Baltimore Yacht Club. He kept the boat and rebuilt it many times. His last boat was a New England dory. He sailed out of a family summer home in Pasadena.

He was a past president of the Central Maryland Chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 8 at Hunt's Memorial United Methodist Church, Old Court and West Joppa roads in Riderwood, where he was a member.

In addition to his wife of 64 years, son and granddaughter, survivors include two other sons, Kris B. Uebersax of Ellicott City and Eric B. Uebersax of Perry Hall; a brother, Edward Uebersax of Pasadena; a sister, Marta Gahs of Catonsville; and two other granddaughters.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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