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Joseph Volk, chemical engineer, fathered four sets of twins March 11, 1923 -- June 3, 2007

Joseph Volk, a former North Tonawanda resident who made national headlines when he and his wife, Vivian, had four consecutive sets of twins in six years, died June 3 in Kimball Medical Center, Lakewood, N.J., after a short illness. He was 84.

He had been living in Leisure Knoll, a retirement community in Manchester, N.J., since 2003.

The first set of twins, Lauren and Thomas, arrived in 1953, a year before the Volks moved from Bellefonte, Pa., to North Tonawanda, where Mr. Volk grew up. Kenneth and Kristin were born shortly after the family settled here. Nancy and Janice came in 1957, and James and Sandra followed in 1959.

The arrival of the fourth set of twins attracted attention nationwide, and the Volks were swamped with promotional offers. However, his daughter Janice says, Mr. Volk was determined to maintain a normal life for his family and turned down all of the proposals, including one for a listing in Ripley's Believe It or Not.

Born in Cleveland, he moved to North Tonawanda with his family as a child and graduated from North Tonawanda High School. He served in the Army during World War II as a radarman in the Pacific.

After attending Clarkson College on the GI Bill and graduating after 2 1/2 years with a degree in chemical engineering, he worked for a year for Spaulding Fibre, then joined the National Gypsum Co., where he worked for 36 years.

Mr. Volk obtained numerous patents on gypsum board products, lime products and acoustical tile. He served as director of technical and environmental services and as acting director of research. He retired in 1985. For a dozen years in the 1950s and 1960s, he also worked part time as a real estate agent for Hoffman Realty.

In addition to his wife of 58 years, the former Vivian Ziolek, a retired public health nurse, survivors include four sons, Tyler, Thomas, Kenneth and James; five daughters, Lauren, Kristin Funk, Nancy Hartel, Sandra Silky and Janice; and a brother, Benjamin.

A memorial service will be private.


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