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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Carleton P. DeWitt

Issue Date: March 24, 2021

Carleton Peter DeWitt, 92, of Oconto, WI, passed from this life to Eternal LIfe on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 at his daughter's home in Tomball, Texas.

Peter was born on Feb. 19, 1929 to Donald and Eleanor Holt DeWitt, the second of three boys. His brothers were Douglas and Robert DeWitt, who preceded him in death in 2005 and 1972 respectively. In his youth Pete was an avid sailor as well as an amateur radio operator. During World War II, he was one of the few "men" in town, even at age 12, who could repair a radio! Peter was active in Boy Scouts and was an Eagle Scout and Order of the Arrow member. He became endeared to Marilyn Mehlberg, the woman who would become his wife of over 50 years, while they worked together on a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore".

In 1947. Peter graduated from Oconto High School and left Oconto to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY where he studied Electrical Engineering. Upon graduation, in June of 1951, he returned to Oconto, married Marilyn, and the two of them left for San Diego, CA.

He had been commissioned as a Navy Seaman to work at Naval Research in San Diego, but in an agreement between the Navy and Convair, was given a job at Convair Aircraft Corp in San Diego. At Convair, he was part of a team developing early missile and rocket guidance systems, including rockets that Wernher Von Braun had designed. One of the rocket systems he worked on was the Atlas which eventually was used to put the first American, John Glenn, into orbit.

During his work at Convair the need to make more accurate measurements became apparent and Peter left Convair to work on an early digital voltmeter at Electro Instruments. While at Electro Instruments , he realized that more accurate calibration systems were needed. Since Electro Instruments was not interested in pursuing this work, Peter, Marilyn and their two children Chris and Pam, left in 1957 to return to Oconto. With the help of his father, Donald DeWitt and friend, Norm Wachal, he founded Holt Instrument Laboratories or "HiLab". Holt Hardwood and the flooring business was phasing out with the end of the lumber business in Oconto, and he foresaw the opportunity to develop this as a new industry.

Holt Instrument was founded to meet the calibration needs of the US military and aerospace industry providing AC and DC voltage and current calibration instruments. Along with these systems, Holt was also a leader in the development of precision measurement instruments, some of which are still used by the U.S. National Bureau of Standards and in many industries around the world. This equipment was used by all branches of the military, the US Coast Guard and NASA and the industries that served them, including Boeing, Lockheed, Convair, Grumman, Electric Boat Works and many others. While Holt was founded to serve the aerospace industry, it also sold instruments to many other industries with a need for precise calibration and measurements.

Some of this equipment was even used to help develop the Concord SST, but Holt didn't just sell in the United States, they also sold to many countries around the world, both their governments and their industries. These included Great Britain, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Egypt, India, Japan, Korea, Australia and many others.

Peter was most proud of HiLab's work with NASA where they supplied calibration and measurement systems used extensively during the development of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo systems and is still used today. Their proudest achievement was recognition of its contribution to the development of a simulator used to train the Apollo astronauts in techniques for landing on the moon, and for the conservation of fuel during both landing and takeoff of the lunar landing module used by Apollo 11. After Apollo, Holt continued to support the Space Shuttle and the development and launch of the many satellites that serve us daily for weather, communications and more.

Less known is the support of our military systems here and overseas needed to defend us and our allies, in some cases rushing repair parts to US bases overseas in less than a day. Unfortunately, an economic recession and business conflicts contributed to the demise in 1975 of Holt Instrument as we knew it. Peter continued a much smaller business in the 80's continuing to support past customers till he finally retired in 2018.

While running his business, Peter DeWitt was active in his community. In the early ඄'s he took an active part in trying to keep Dutch Elm Disease from decimating the beautiful Oconto Elm trees. He was part of many searches for boaters lost on Green Bay, and involved in the Civil Air Patrol as a small plane pilot. Following his scouting background, he was the Cub Scout Packmaster as well as Scoutmaster for many years.

In 1969, he co-chaired the committee to celebrate Oconto's Tri-Centennial. He was a Sr. Warden of St. Mark's Episcopal Church and fostered the relationship with the Machickanee Players theater group from their start in what was the Church Guild Hall. He was an active member of the local Civil Air Patrol, serving as Communications Officer and never missed bringing out his Grandmother's Detroit Electric car for parades.

He was an avid supporter of the Oconto County Historical Society, the Packers, and the Wisconsin Humane Society. He also was an active member "the bell ringer" of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Marinette, WI until his move to Tomball.

Peter DeWitt thanked the citizens of Oconto for the honor of being asked to preside as 2019 Copperfest Grand Marshall, and the privilege of having raised 5 children there with his wife Marilyn. "There is no better place to live a life," he was quoted as saying. Peter DeWitt lived all but 12 of his 92 years in Oconto.

He was a drummer in his youth, he loved music, nature and Island Lodge at Archibald Lake, WI. He loved that his children loved their Lord and each other. He moved to Tomball, TX to live with his daughter Lisa and her family in January of 2019.

His surviving children are Chris (Jan Hutchins) DeWitt, Pam (Bob) Booth, Dan (Laura Usiak) DeWitt, Dr. Lisa (Chris) Wanner and Mary (Joe) Cazier. He has 10 wonderful grandchildren, Katrina "Katie" Booth, Rob (Kelli) Booth, Anna DeWitt, Matthew and Nick Wanner and Joey Cazier and step-grandchildren, Preston and Zachary Cazier and Katrina and Shain (Amy) Wiederholt. He has one great-granddaughter, Adalynn and a step-great grandson, Mason Wiederholt.

His beloved wife of 51 years, Marilyn, went to be with her Lord in 2002.

The family will receive relatives and friends on Thursday, April 22nd at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 917 Church St., in Marinette, Wisconsin from 10:30 AM till Noon. At noon a Memorial Service will take place. Burial will be at noon, the following day, Friday, April 23rd at the Evergreen Cemetery in Oconto. If attending indoor or outdoor services, we respectfully request that social distancing be practiced and masks be worn.

Gifts may be made in Peter's name to the Holt & Balcolm Logging Camp NO. 1 (please send to Robert Brown, 14849 McCabe Rd, Lakewood, Wi.54138); the Oconto Historical Society, Wisconsin Historical Society, or the Wisconsin Humane Society. Please go to Facebook.com "Carleton Peter DeWitt" or Hansen Onion Martell Funeral Home Inc. to add your stories and memories.


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