CROSS PLAINS, WIS. - A single-engine seaplane crashed on a remote Canadian lake Sept. 20, killing five men, including Joe Kuehn, 51-year-old founder of Cross Plains thermoformer Plastic Ingenuity Inc. and David Olson, a mold maker at the firm. Ontario police are still investigating the crash that turned a fishing trip into tragedy. The plane was trying to land on Salvesen Lake about 50 miles north of Kenora, Ontario, said Plastic Ingenuity spokesman Randy Paul. The bodies were recovered and returned to Wisconsin.
Kuehn was buried at Francis Xavier Cemetery in Cross Plains last week. Olson, 49, a 20-year employee of Plastic Ingenuity, also was buried last week.
Other Cross Plains residents killed in the trip were: Michael Forseid, 52, a carpenter; Gerald Grob, 57, owner of JB&J Trucking Co. in Cross Plains; and Howard Holzwarth, 58, a retired telephone repairman.
Plastic Ingenuity makes thermoformed packaging. Although employees are struggling to cope with the tragedy, business will continue as usual, wrote Joe Kuehn's brother and company co-owner, Tom, in a letter to customers and suppliers.
A mechanical engineer, Joe Kuehn began in plastics selling phenolic resins, then took a position designing turret lathes at Gisholt Machine Co. in Madison, Wis. When Giddings & Lewis closed the plant in 1971, he became production manager at Placon Corp., then a 20-employee thermoformer in Fitchburg, Wis., but disagreements over management philosophy led to his termination a year later, according to Plastic Ingenuity history.
Kuehn went into business for himself, renting a 1,300-square-foot garage in Madison. The firm struggled on the verge of bankruptcy until, perhaps fitting for a Wisconsin thermoformer, cheese came to the rescue. Facing a problem with a supplier, Stauffer Cheese needed packaging. Over the weekend, the tiny thermoforming company built a tool and formed the parts.
Kuehn was an industry activist, said Robert Styer, who founded Creative Forming Inc. in Ripon, Wis. Kuehn started the Wisconsin Consumer Packaging Council in the late 1980s and was active in the Thermoforming Institute of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.