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Professor, formerly of Greensburg, was renowned for engine expertise

Jeff Himler
| Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, 11:21 p.m.

David Rotigel had a gift for teaching that he expressed in all aspects of his life.

As a college professor, he helped others improve their teaching skills. As a mechanically-inclined hobbyist, he mentored others in woodworking and restoring antique engines.

“Dave passed along his knowledge to everybody,” said his wife, Jennifer.

He was known internationally for his experience repairing and restoring engines that predated the advent of electricity.

“He wanted to keep the history alive of how useful these engines were to our growing country,” his wife said. “He really enjoyed helping people learn about the hobby. He was in contact with people all over the world.”

David Emery Rotigel, 79, of Bonita Springs, Fla., formerly of Greensburg and Indiana, died Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, after a brief battle with lung cancer.

Born Nov. 10, 1937, in Detroit, Mich., he was a son of the late Joseph and Fern M. Emery Rotigel.

He received his doctoral degree in philosophy of education from the University of Illinois.

He served as a professor for 39 years with the University of Indiana and then Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He chaired the Foundations of Education Department and coordinated the Langley/IUP Urban Teaching Center in Pittsburgh.

He balanced his academic career with interests in hands-on activities, including hunting and gardening.

“He would grow so many vegetables, and we'd be going crazy trying to give them all away,” his wife said.

Rotigel served in the National Guard in Michigan and Ohio and for many years was secretary of the Fort Allen Antique Farm Equipment Association.

He displayed his antique engines and tractors at shows around the country, delighting children with an engine-operated pump that created bubbles.

Friend and fellow hobbyist Arnie Fero of Plum said the key attraction in attending shows was making friends with other enthusiasts.

“The engines are just really the glue that held it all together,” he said.

Rotigel shared his hobby with his children, coached their sports teams and served as a Cub Scout packmaster.

“Family was pretty much everything to him,” his wife said.

Dr. Rotigel is survived by his wife of 36 years, Jennifer, of Bonita Springs, Fla.; children Seely of Kalamazoo, Mich.; David of Etters ; Todd of Mt. Pulaski, Ill.; Pedro Bidegaray of Miami, Fla.; Daniel of Bonita Springs, Fla.; and Michael of North Fort Myers, Fla.; and two grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Barnhart Funeral Home, 505 E. Pittsburgh St., Greensburg. Entombment with military honors will follow at St. Clair Cemetery, Greensburg.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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