Tuesday, April 1, 2003


Paul Wiwi's houses were built to last

By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Paul Wiwi built 543 homes, restaurants, banks, car dealerships, churches and bowling alleys around Hamilton County and southeast Indiana.

"He started building brick houses in Harrison when people were still putting up frame houses," said his daughter, Suzanne M. Gibson of Lusk, Wyo. "They were custom-built homes. If you brought a plan, he would build it. He did old-time construction. It was a much better house."

And he stood by his work.

Once, when a 25-year-old fireplace in a house he built developed a crack, Mr. Wiwi replaced the fireplace at no charge.

"I put it up to stay up the first time," he told the homeowner.

Mr. Wiwi died Friday at Twin Towers in College Hill. The longtime Harrison resident was 84.

Mr. Wiwi, who built the original swimming pool in Harrison in the mid-1950s, was also known for constructing more bank vaults in Greater Cincinnati than anyone, according to his family. He started his construction business after returning as a wounded veteran of World War II.

Born in Connersville, Ind., he grew up on a farm in Franklin County. After graduating from Whitewater High School in 1936, he worked on the family farm and delivered ice for Kaiser's Hardware in West Harrison, Ind.

He was drafted into the Army in 1941 and served as an instructor at the amphibious training center in Camp Carrabelle, Fla., before being shipped to the Pacific Theater. A platoon leader and commander of a rifle company, he was wounded by mortar fire on Okinawa on May 9, 1945.

"He was lucky there happened to be a corpsman right there," his daughter said. "His lungs had collapsed. If he hadn't received immediate attention, he would have died.''

In addition to a punctured lung, his back, hip, knee and both hands were injured. He experienced paralysis in one arm and required skin grafts. Doctors told him he'd never use his arm or walk again.

It took nearly two years of hospitalization before Mr. Wiwi recovered enough to come home.

"He had battle scars all over him," his daughter said, but he did regain use of his arm and legs.

Mr. Wiwi received the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

His career as a developer spanned 45 years. Mr. Wiwi also was a board member of the Franklin County Indiana Water Association and Merchants Bank and Trust Co. He was a member of the American Legion J.B. Yeager Post No. 199, the Knights of Columbus Harrison Council No. 2633 and St. John the Baptist Church.

In addition to his daughter Suzanne, survivors include his wife of 54 years, Dorothy Kerr Wiwi; another daughter, Carol A. Wiwi of Harrison; two sons, Robert C. of Harrison and Lawrence A. of West Harrison; two brothers, Ralph of Richmond, Ind., and Leroy of West Harrison; a sister, Ethel Wiwi of Hillsboro, Ohio.; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Mass of Christian burial is 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at St. John the Baptist Church in Harrison. Burial will be in the church cemetery.

Memorials: World War II Memorial Fund, c/o John C. Brater Funeral Home, 201 S. Vine St., Harrison, OH 45030.

E-mail rgoodman@enquirer.com

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