Fairchild's Rinehart mourned

August 26, 1997


Staff Writer

Theron Kenneth Rinehart, described by friends and colleagues as a compassionate, generous "Renaissance man," died Sunday after a long illness. He was 72.

Rinehart was a giant in the aviation industry, working 34 years for Fairchild Aircraft Corp. in Hagerstown. He served as research editor for the book "Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow," which traced the history of 50 years of Fairchild aviation. He also was a driving force behind a Fairchild museum that opened at the company's former headquarters at Dulles International Airport in Virginia in 1984.

Away from work, Rinehart contributed to a host of charitable and civic organizations ranging from the Rotary club to the YMCA. He is perhaps best-known for his work as board president of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, where he oversaw a fund-raising campaign that nearly doubled the museum's space.


"He was extremely interested in this community. He spent a lot of time doing things that he thought would benefit this community," said Jeannette Rinehart, his wife of 43 years.

For about the last three years, Rinehart suffered from amyloidosis, a disease that attacks the nerves and muscles due to the liver's overproduction of a protein called amyloid.

Before that, however, friends and associates said he was a moving force in Washington County.

"In many ways, you could call him a Renaissance man," said Hagerstown attorney William P. Young, a longtime friend.

Young pointed to the museum as a lasting legacy.

"In his retirement, he worked to preserve the legacy which the Singer family and others have given to this community - even during a period in which his health was beginning to deteriorate. He worked so that that legacy will be passed on to future generations," he said. "That represents an extraordinary achievement."

Born in Chewsville, Rinehart served the U.S. Army in the Pacific during World War II.

He graduated from Georgetown University and enrolled at Columbia University, but he had to withdraw when his reserve unit was sent to Korea. His wife said he intended to return to graduate school but ended up staying at Fairchild.

At Fairchild, he wrote technical manuals before joining the company's public relations department.

Rinehart also was a member of the Zion Evangelical and Reformed Church in Hagerstown and served on the board of the Hagerstown YMCA, the Washington County Historical Society and others organizations.

Friends and associates said Rinehart was a connoisseur of fine wine and culture who devoured literature.

"He was a wonderful guy. He was brilliant and yet he didn't rub your nose in it. He was a lot smarter than I was," remembered William Mumma Sr., his supervisor at Fairchild. "He just seemed to know a little bit about everything - from opera to wrestling."

Sue Tuckwell, who worked with Rinehart at the YMCA, said she considered him her public relations "mentor."

Years later, Tuckwell said, she would often bounce ideas off him.

"If he concurred, it was usually the right way to go," she said. "He was extremely well-read. He was one of the most intelligent people I've ever met - a real inspiration."

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