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Metals expert driven to success in career, hobbies

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By Jewels Phraner
Saturday, April 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

It didn't take long for Jan Hinrichsen to realize his future wife was not a sailor.

She told him she was and convinced him to take her out on his boat for their first date, Jean Hinrichsen remembered.

“He knew almost immediately that I was not a sailor,” she said, but that began their courtship in 1975. They married two years later.

Jan Dierk Hinrichsen of Mt. Lebanon died Wednesday, April 3, 2013, of renal cancer. He was 74.

He was described by his family as brilliant, witty and driven.

An immigrant as a child, Mr. Hinrichsen could be the archetype of the American dream.

Mr. Hinrichsen was 12 when he moved with his father and sister from Germany to Wisconsin.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Hinrichsen pursued a career in metals, eventually inventing and patenting methods of making steel by turning raw iron ore into pellets to feed steel-making furnaces.

His career with Dravo Corp. and its successor companies brought him to Pittsburgh in the late 1960s, and from there he traveled across the globe to open iron ore processing plants.

“He was very driven in his professional life,” said his son, Eric Hinrichsen. “And his name was well-known in his tiny, specialized industry.”

He said his father was driven in his hobbies, as well.

The family often went to Moraine State Park in Butler County to sail on Lake Arthur.

Mr. Hinrichsen spent a great deal of time woodworking.

“He had a pretty extensive workshop. He made me a little wooden scooter one year, and I had a pretty awesome fort in our backyard,” his son said.

Mr. Hinrichsen met his wife when she asked him to translate a German message for her boss at Dravo.

“He always told people I asked him to marry me, because I told him we were either going to break up or get married,” she said. “So I guess I did ask him.”

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Hinrichsen is survived by Eric's wife, Holly; a sister, Kaja, and her husband, Karl Steinberg; and stepsister Brigitte and her husband, Marshall Nutting.

Friends will be received from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday in Laughlin Memorial Chapel, 222 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon.

Memorial donations can be made to the American Cancer Society, 320 Bilmar Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15205.

Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or

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