Oshkosh legend Clarence Jungwirth is dead at 98

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Local legend Clarence “Inky” Jungwirth, who started working for Oshkosh Corp. in 1945 and still went to the office every day, died over the weekend. He was 98.

The author or co-author of numerous books, including “The Bloody Sixth Ward: A History of the Sixth Ward in the City of Oshkosh from 1880 to 1940” and “Oshkosh Trucks: 75 Years of Specialty Truck Production,” Jungwirth was renowned for his prodigious memory.

At Oshkosh Corp. he maintained an office and came to work each day helping customers from all over the world track down spare parts for legacy models of the company’s products, a company spokeswoman said.

“There are about 50,000-60,000 old Oshkosh trucks in the field,” he said in an interview published by the company last year. “The oldest is a 1937 in Colorado. My job is to keep those old trucks going. Keep in mind that I’m 97 years old, and I can still remember part numbers from the 1930s and 1940s. I deal with customers all over the United States and world, and their opinion of Oshkosh is unbelievable quality.”

“I don’t think anyone in Oshkosh knew our history better than Inky,” said Mayor Steve Cummings. “He saw the city evolve from one dominated by the lumber industry to a major player in global markets with companies such as Oshkosh Corp.”

Cummings added, “His life was a history of that company.”

“Sorry to say that I met him only once,” said Dr. Stephen Kercher, chair of the History Department at UW Oshkosh. “His memory of life in Oshkosh and his passion for preserving local history will be sorely missed.”

“His passing caught us off guard in the history community,” said Austin M. Frederick, the vice president of the Winnebago County Historical & Archaeological Society. “Inky was surely a timekeeper of this city, and he made sure he shared what he experienced and knew through his writing.”
Three years ago the society started an awards program to recognize someone who has made major contributions to preserving local history. “Inky was the first recipient and the award’s namesake,” Frederick said.  “We know how much that meant to him and his family to receive it and have it go on in his name. Inky will be missed.”
Although Jungwirth was a prolific author, his nickname was not related to his writing. Rather it derived from his early years on the city’s South Side. “Hanging out in the Bloody Sixth Ward as a kid everyone needed a nickname,” he told a UW Oshkosh journalism student in 2006. “Otherwise you were a sissy. I was the runt of the gang, so they called me ‘Incubator Baby.’ Before long they didn’t want to say the whole thing, and it became ‘Inky.'”
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Miles Maguire

Miles Maguire is the author of Advanced Reporting: Essential Skills for 21st Century Journalism. He was the founding editor of the Oshkosh Community News Network, a nonprofit online news organization whose work was cited as a notable innovation in journalism in the 2005 Knight-Batten Awards. Send questions, comments and suggestions to miles.maguire@yahoo.com.

3 Comments

  1. Mr. Jungwirth shared a huge wealth of knowledge and pictures with our committee of teachers who were researching Oshkosh’s history in preparation of writing OASD curriculum about 17 years ago!

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