John W. Wirtz, the man who took his father’s small family engineering business and turned it into an international battery machine manufacturing firm, died on December 3. He was 91 years old.
He was a well known, well liked and entrepreneurial businessman with a fine grasp of technical detail — including numerous patents to his name — and known for his personal generosity to those pushing out the boundaries of battery technology.
He started at Wirtz Manufacturing part-time during his vacations while at high school in the early 1940s. He worked as a machinist and as a result learnt and understood from the ground up what the machines did and why — this tradition of an early start at the ground floor of the business has continued for his son and later through his son to his grandchildren.
He was eventually to become president and owner of Wirtz Manufacturing.
After graduating from high school in 1943, he served in the US Navy until 1946 before attending the University of Michigan, where he graduated in business studies in 1949.
The combination of technical and engineering understanding and a knowledge of business proved a powerful one and through the 1950s and 1960s he criss-crossed North America as an ambassador for the firm.