Born in Cicero, Ill., on June 8, 1924, to George H. Lenke, Sr. and Gertrude Krefft Lenke, George grew up in the Elmhurst, Ill., area. In 1942 he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, earned his commission and wings as a Second Lieutenant in 1944, and became a flight instructor (when he didn’t even have a driver’s license yet).
He served as a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber pilot in the European Theatre in World War II and as a member of the 350th Squadron, 100th Bomb Group he flew both combat and humanitarian (Chowhound) missions. Years later, Lenke coincidentally met persons who had lived in the Netherlands, faced starvation, and who were grateful recipients of the parcels of food and supplies dropped on these Chowhound missions. Following the war, he obtained the rank of Major while serving in the Air Force Reserve in Illinois and Indiana until the late 1970s.
On Sept. 20, 1947, George married Patricia J. Cooley and in 1951 he graduated from the University of Tulsa with a degree in Petroleum Engineering and worked for Dowell Chemical Company in Texas. In 1953 he joined his father-in-law, Chester Cooley, as an Engineer at Da-Lite Screen Company, Warsaw. He assumed the presidency in 1963 and continued with Da-Lite until his retirement in 1984. During this time, he and his wife traveled extensively throughout the world and made numerous life-long friends associated with Da-Lite.
He was a faithful Christian and for over 50 years was a member of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Warsaw, and later a member of Concordia Lutheran Church, Sarasota. George was a Paul Harris Fellow in Rotary International, a member of Tippecanoe Country Club, instrumental in the establishment of Kosciusko Community Hospital, and served as Chairman of the Board of the First National Bank in Warsaw and a Director of the Warsaw Chamber of Commerce.
George was a life-long Chicago Bears and Cubs fan, loved telling jokes, enjoyed many green-thumb summers gardening at his home on Lake Tippecanoe and was an avid golfer, bowler and fisherman. Respected by his business associates, community, family and friends, he was the epitome of a gentleman and will be profoundly missed.
George is survived by his wife: Patricia J. Lenke, Sarasota; three daughters: Barbara Gmitter, Lakewood Ranch, Fla.; Sandra (Don) Brickel, Franklin, Tenn.; and Nancy (Norman) Johnson, Pittsburgh, Pa.; six grandchildren: Kameron (Sean) McConnell, Wilmington, Del.; Shannon (Patrick) Hawkins, Murfressboro, Tenn.; Adam and Samantha Brickel, Franklin, Tenn.; and Holly and Erica Johnson, Pittsburgh; and two great-grandchildren: Elizabeth Brickel and Christian Hawkins, Murfreesboro, Tenn.;
He was preceded in death by a brother: Robert; and a sister: Jean.
Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, June 28, at McHatton-Sadler Funeral Chapel, Warsaw. A Celebration of Life will be held at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Warsaw, at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 29. Military honors will be rendered by Warsaw American Legion Post #49 and Warsaw VFW Post #1126.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent to the Warsaw Rotary Club, P.O. Box 1473, Warsaw, IN 46581-1473 or to a charity of the donor’s choice.