Ernest Werner Kirchheimer
August 26, 1925 - November 21, 2019
Ernest Werner Kirchheimer, 94, died peacefully at home on November 21, 2019 in Highland Park, IL. A loving husband, father, grandfather and uncle, he was deeply cherished by those who knew him.
Ernest, the son of Eugene and Bertha (nee Thalheimer) Kirchheimer, was born in Heilbronn, Germany. A Holocaust survivor, he left Germany with his parents when he was 12 to begin a new life in Houston, Texas. His new home was nothing like the Wild West he had
expected from stories he had read in Germany, but he quickly adapted, shedding his lederhosen for long pants and learning English quickly. As a teen, he worked to help support his family as a paper boy, an usher in his uncle’s movie theater, and as a furniture
A member of the ROTC at San Jacinto High School, Ernest enlisted in the US Army in 1943, where he was assigned to active infantry duty in the 100th Infantry Division. He proudly served his country during World War II, receiving the Purple Heart, Bronze Star
and the French Legion of Honor for his service.
In what he later referred to as “the most amazing coincidence of my life,” in April 1945, nearly seven years after he had left Germany for the US, Ernest was wounded in combat in Heilbronn, the town of his birth. In a field hospital, he was treated by a German
physician who was surprised by his local accent and checked the name on his dog tags. As it turned out, the doctor treating him on the battlefield had been a close family friend, neighbor and Ernest’s childhood pediatrician in Germany.
Following his recovery and honorable discharge, Ernest enrolled in Texas A&M University, where he graduated in three years in 1949 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. In 1958, after taking evening courses while working days, he received a master’s
degree in philosophy from the University of Houston.
Ernest worked most of his career as an engineer and manager within the petrochemicals industry, most recently at Mobil Corp., from which he retired in 1990. In 1959, while working for Texas Butadiene and Chemical Corporation, he was transferred from Houston
to the company’s New York City office, where he met the love of his life, Carol McNeill, in 1960. They navigated different religious backgrounds and political affinities to find a common joy in the urban life and family they forged together. In their 58 years
of marriage, they took advantage of opportunities to travel and enjoyed the many cultural attractions of the city, exploring museums, theater, concerts and restaurants weekly.
Ernest was preceded in death by his parents; an uncle, Henry Thalheimer; his sister Gretel Etwanik and brother August Kirchheimer; and more recently, by his nephew, James Kirkland, and his beloved wife Carol. He is survived by his daughter Barbara (Robert Kelsey),
nieces Marguerite Kirchheimer and Mary Anne Cramer, nephews John and Jim McNeill, and his cherished grandchildren Jason and Marina Polydoris.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, P.O. Box 5014, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5014. 1-800-708-7644
( www.michaeljfox.org/donate )