By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer
John Stephen Wirthlin, a lawyer and World War II Army veteran who preserved history by speaking about the war through the University of Cincinnati's continuing education lecture series, died Thursday at Good Samaritan Hospital.
The Hyde Park man was 78.
Mr. Wirthlin's war experience gave him leadership skills and shaped his future.
But he endured some hard knocks before to going to war. "Jack" Wirthlin, as he was known by friends, entered the Army right after graduating from the school at the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Orphan Home (later the Ohio Veterans Children's Home) in Xenia.
He was sent there at 14 after his mother died and his despondent father couldn't take care of him.
"I was getting into trouble and was on the edge of being a qualified juvenile delinquent," he told his daughter Linda Ann Tate of Bridgetown.
Mr. Wirthlin said it was the structure and discipline of the orphanage that turned him around.
"When I went in, I ran away twice," he told the Enquirer in a 1996 interview. "When I left, I didn't want to leave. I had found a home."
At 19, Mr. Wirthlin was a staff sergeant with the 44th Division - leading a 12-man squad in northern France. Wounded in the left foot and ankle while defending Montbronn in December 1944, he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
Mr. Wirthlin studied pre-law at Xavier University after the war and graduated from the Salmon P. Chase College of Law in 1951. He joined C.R. Beirne in private practice. Beirne and Wirthlin were trial counsel for the Cincinnati Street Railway Co. and its successors, the Cincinnati Transit Co. and Queen City Metro.
Some of his other clients included the Kroger Co., St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Dayton and Maxwell Co. Mr. Wirthlin was also one of the attorneys involved in the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire suit.
Mr. Wirthlin was an adjunct professor at Chase for more than 30 years and a lecturer at the University of Cincinnati.
He was elected to the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1976 and the American Board of Trial Advocates in 1989. He was a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, a past president of the Cincinnati Bar Association and the Chase College of Law Alumni Association, a member of the Hamilton County Soldiers and Sailors Relief Commission, the Hamilton County Public Defenders Commission, VFW Post 6979 and a charter member of the Volunteer Lawyers for the Poor.
Mr. Wirthlin served on the board of trustees of the Soldiers and Sailors Orphan Home for many years. After he retired from his law practice, he was a member of the Rooney Fund at the home, which provided college scholarships and grants to children of former residents.
He was inducted into the home's hall of fame in 1987, the same year he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Chase.
Mr. Wirthlin delivered an oral history of World War II through UC's continuing education lecture series.
"I think it is important that we who were there share our stories so other people who wish to hear about it will remember," he said of the series.
In addition to his daughter Linda Ann, survivors include: his wife of 54 years, Marjorie Fredrick Wirthlin; two sons, J. Stephen Wirthlin of Union Township and Michael F. Wirthlin of Bridgetown; another daughter, Patricia Heath of Silverton; and 10 grandchildren.
Mass of Christian burial is 10 a.m. today at St. Francis DeSales Church, 1600 Madison Road, East Walnut Hills. Burial is at Spring Grove Cemetery.
Memorials: Kidney Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, 2200 Victory Parkway, Cincinnati 45206.
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