William “Bill” F. Blank, Sr., Founder of Blank and Wesselink & Associates, dies at age 93

BY 
January 14, 2014

William “Bill” F. Blank, Sr., P.E., LS, F.ASCE, who founded the engineering firm Blank and Wesselink & Associates in 1965, where he served as president, CEO, and chairman emeritus, passed away on November 26 at the age of 93. Born June 23, 1920, in New York City, Blank knew early on in life that he wanted to be a civil engineer, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and sanitary engineering from New York University in May 1941. Following college, his first job was with the American Bridge Company in Trenton, New Jersey; but not for too long. With the outbreak of World War II, Blank enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served as an ensign with Company B and Company C of the 43rd Naval Construction Battalion (Seabees). Assigned to the campaign in the Pacific Theatre, Blank would be part of the Aleutian Island campaign from 1943 to1944. After a short stay in Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, he was stationed in Nagasaki, Japan, for 2 months helping to rebuild the city’s infrastructure following the war. Discharged from active service on January 24, 1946, he continued his service in the Naval Reserve until July 6, 1954, having reached the rank of lieutenant commander in the Civil Engineer Corps. In 1951, while working for American Wheelabrator and Equipment Corporation in Mishawaka, Indiana, Blank was recalled to active service in 1951 in support of the Korean War effort. His orders landed him, his wife, and 2 sons in Decatur, Illinois, and the move was the beginning of his family’s life in Decatur for the next 60 years. After working for several major industrial companies and consulting engineering firms, including Homer L. Chastain Consulting Engineers, he founded Blank and Wesselink & Associates (today, Blank, Wesselink, Cook & Associates, Inc.). He retired in 1997 as chairman emeritus. Licensed as a professional engineer in 19 states, colleagues and family recall how he was always interested in new ideas, technologies, industries, and business opportunities. Even in retirement he pursued his professional interests as a consulting engineer, applying his experience to forensic engineering and arbitration on projects that included water supply and wastewater treatment. At age 91, Blank was honored by the Agricultural Watershed Institute for his efforts in getting the organization firmly established as its first board chairman. Throughout his life, whenever he faced a difficult task, colleagues said he would repeat the slogan, “Seabees Can Do.”

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