Aug. 19, 1933 – Dec. 10, 2017
One of the first things Norm Winkler did after he became resident engineer for northern Erie County for the New York State Department of Transportation was spruce up the maintenance headquarters in Depew.
“It was like a garage,” his wife of 53 years, the former JoAnn C. Marciano, recalled. “He didn’t want it to look like a place where laborers work. He felt like they should be treated like human beings. He had it painted. He put in a couch. He made it comfortable.
“He was very good at executing things,” she added. “He had a booming voice and he got things going.”
Mr. Winkler died last Sunday in Garden Gate Healthcare Facility in Cheektowaga after a long illness. He was 84.
Mr. Winkler helped coordinate the state’s snowfighting efforts during the Blizzard of ‘77. One of his challenges was feeding his 142 men, who were working around the clock.
“When the blizzard hit, all of the restaurants were closed,” his wife said, “but there was this one that was going to have a grand opening. He got in a plow and went there, got all the food and fed the crew. If he had to break the rules, he’d break the rules. It was always for the people.”
Born in Buffalo, Norman E. Winkler attended Depew High School and earned an associate’s degree in construction technology from Erie County Technical Institute.
While working as a construction technician, his wife said, “he watched these engineers work and thought, ‘Wait a minute, I can do that.’ That’s when he decided what he wanted to do.”
Drafted into the Army at the end of the Korean War, he served in Germany as a tank commander, then returned to attend the Missouri School of Mines on the GI Bill. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.
Mr. Winkler worked for a short time for Republic Steel Corp., then joined the DOT in 1961 as a design engineer. He became engineer in charge for the completion of the construction of the Youngmann Highway in the mid-1960s.
As resident engineer, he coined the phrase, “Make Every Day Earth Day, Don’t Litter,” which appeared on road signs throughout the area. The DOT recognized him with numerous awards.
After he retired in 1992, he traveled the world with his wife. He also did work for the State Emergency Management Administration, performing disaster assessments locally after storms and floods.
SEMA called him again following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. He arrived Sept. 12, set up a command post for disaster assessment at Ground Zero and oversaw it for 10 months.
A resident of Orchard Park for 35 years, he moved in 2002 to Ellicottville, where he was active in the Rotary Club and served on the Zoning Board of Appeals for the Town of Ellicottville.
He also was a certified instructor in the State of New York Sexual Harassment Intervention Program and toured the state giving lectures on sexual harassment in the workplace.
In addition to his wife, who owned the Country Cupboard health food stores in Orchard Park and East Aurora, survivors include a son, Douglas; two daughters, Mari-Jo Winkler-Ioffreda and Katie Glowski; and five grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at noon Dec. 23 in St. Bernadette Catholic Church, 5930 S. Abbott Road, Orchard Park.