Richard J. Tumblin, the son of Richard and Suzanne Tumblin, passed away in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on Nov. 9, one day after his 59th birthday, following a valiant battle of 14 months with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Richard was an accomplished mechanical engineer whose preparation for his career started as early as grade school when he was repairing the 2- and 4-cycle engines of his neighbors in Villa Gardens. During his high school years, he restored his own 1952 Oldsmobile. He was always as interested in the practical aspects of his profession as in the academic, so he entered the Nashville Auto-Diesel College and then worked at Reeder Chevrolet in auto body repair before college. He entered the University of Tennessee in 1980 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1984. He then enrolled in the University of Navarro in Barcelona, Spain, where he attained his MBA with emphasis on general business and industrial production.
His first employment was with the Oshkosh Truck Co., Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He was sent to Aberdeen Proving Grounds Md. where his major assignment was to manage the test site and prepare an innovative proposal that paved the way for a $1.2 billion contract to build a 30-metric ton truck and trailer combination vehicle for the U.S. Army.
In 1990, he was employed by Komatsu America Corp. in Peoria, Illinois, to supervise the test engineers and perform tests on the structural and mechanical systems of their giant trucks, developing both the methods and the software for the testing.
Komatsu then sent him to Southern Arizona as general manager of their Arizona Proving Grounds to develop a new 8,000-acre facility to replace the 408-acre one in Illinois. He was also responsible for software planning and integration of both the engineering and the accounting and was responsible for a capital budget of $4.3 million and an expense budget of $3.3 million.
His training and proven engineering and management skills, together with his fluency in Spanish, resulted in his transfer to Santiago, Chile, where he was vice president of the Product Support Group. Komatsu was one of the largest producers of heavy earth moving and mining equipment for operations in Chile, Mexico, Columbia, Panama and Peru. Tumblin supervised 33 trainers, administrators and managers and developed training manuals for mining, construction and forestry. He took early retirement in 2017 to return to the states.
He was then employed by Fincantieri Marinette Marine, a large shipbuilding company near Green Bay, when he was diagnosed with ALS and took a medical retirement.
Richard was preceded in death by his mother, Suzanne Welmers Tumblin, who also passed of ALS on April 2, 2006. He is survived by his wife, Ingrid, and son, Liam, of Green Bay. Also surviving are his father, Richard E. Tumblin; his sister, Cathy Graves (Richard), of Knoxville; brother David (Isabel) of Washington, D.C., and his uncles Dr. Jim (Peggy) Tumblin and Dr. John (Billie) Tumblin, along with many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
There will be a memorial service for Richard John at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, at Northside Christian Church where he attended for 26 years. The Rev. Frits Haverkamp will perform the service, and relatives and friends are invited.