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Gus Grosskopf, WWII bomber pilot, dies in Austin

AUSTIN, Texas — Gus Martin Grosskopf did a lot of things with precision, whether it was flying a B-25 bomber over the Pacific in World War II, running a major typesetting company in Austin or handcrafting a piece of furniture for his church.

"He was all about building and serving," said his son, Bill Grosskopf, 63. "He was always looking out to see how he could help someone else."

Gus Grosskopf, who passed away Tuesday in Austin at age 89, grew up on a farm near Pflugerville, picking cotton as a boy, his son said. He attended Austin High School. When he turned 17, he applied to enlist in the Army Air Corp; while the application was being processed, he was drafted into the Army and went through basic training to become and infantryman. His Air Corp application finally caught up with him and he was sent to officer training and flight school, his son said.

After he was commissioned as a second lieutenant, he was assigned to fly B-25 bombers out of the Philippines and flew 24 successful missions between 1944 and the end of the war.

"He never really talked about the war much until the last couple of years of his life," Bill Grosskopf said. "He talked about some of the low-level strafing and bombing runs they had to do and talked about pilots coming back with coconuts stuck in their fuselage because they had clipped a tree. They had to fly that low."

Grosskopf had worked at a typesetting shop while he was in high school. When he returned from the war, he went back to that work. Eventually he started his own typesetting business, G&S Typesetters, which would become one of the largest typesetting companies in the country, according to the Grosskopf family and former employees. It prepared books, textbooks, scholarly publications and even early copies of Texas Monthly for print. Clients included the University of Texas, University of California, Princeton University and Stanford University.

He started the business with his wife, Carolyn. The couple had two sons, Bill and Jack.

Despite no education beyond his officer training in the military, Grosskopf was able to teach himself how to run a business and build things.

"He was extremely clever and could build almost anything out of anything," Bill Grosskopf said.

When their sons graduated from college with engineering degrees, they came to work in the family business.

"The key is stay so busy you stay out of each others' way," Bill Grosskopf said. "That way, there is no time to bicker over things."

His sons persuaded Grosskopf to retire in 2005 -- more than 50 years after he founded G&S Typesetters -- and the company was sold Newgen North America.

Bill Grosskopf still works there, but gone are the days of hot metal typesetting. The work is done on computers now.

Gus Grosskopf turned his attention to woodworking, volunteering at St. Martin's Lutheran Church to build furniture and cabinets for the church.

"He very patient and tended to be on the quiet side," said longtime friend and fellow volunteer John Sommer. "He would not criticize people."

Grosskopf was a perfectionist with his own work and generously shared it, building furniture for friends and family members and helping with minor repairs well into his 80s.

"When he took a project," Sommer said, "it always ended up being better than you thought it would be."

(c) 2014 Austin American-Statesman. Distributed by MCT Information Services
 

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