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T. Dankward Schmalbruch


T. Dankward (Don) Schmalbruch of Doylestown, Pa., died peacefully in his sleep Wednesday, Oct. 18. At his side were his wife Erika of 65 years and their two children, Christian and Anja.

Born in Braunschweig, Germany, Don and his family survived World War II, escaping East Germany to West Germany. There he later trained as an electrical engineer.

Don’s brother Klaas, an exchange student at George School (Newtown, Pa.), suggested Don start a new life here, prompting Klaas’ host parents to invite him. Don arrived in 1955 and lived with Colbert and Dorothy Thomas who became his second set of parents. In 1956 he was drafted into the U.S. Army (Signal Corps) and eventually stationed in Germany where he was happily able to marry his fiancée, Erika. A year later in 1959, their son Christian was born, and the new family came home to the Thomases in Newtown.

Don worked for Honeywell in Fort Washington, Pa., and he and Erika became live-in custodians, then members of Wrightstown Friends Meeting, where many lifelong friendships were formed. Don co-founded Inertial Motors Corporation in Doylestown which designed and manufactured specialty low-inertia DC servo motors. In 1970, the family, now including daughter Anja, moved to Doylestown. In 1994 he started consulting for Dontech, Inc.

Don enjoyed many family-centered activities, photography, music and playing the guitar. An avid singer he was a member of the Peddler’s Pack and the Phillips’ Mill Community Association where he enjoyed acting. He had a passion for gliding, delighting in taking his grandchildren soaring. Don soared in life, as he soared in the sky, and we trust he is soaring still.

He is survived by his wife, Erika, son Christian (Pat) and daughter Anja Strathdee; brother Niels (Krista), sisters-in-law Hilke and Petra, brother-in-law Jens Hinrichs, his American brothers Garry Thomas (Connie) and Bob Thomas (John); his grandchildren Lauren and Sarah Schmalbruch, Douglas and Ellie Strathdee; and many cherished nieces and nephews. He is predeceased by brothers Klaas and Jan, his sister Antje Hinrichs, George and Ramona Thomas and his son-in-law Ted Strathdee.

A Celebration of Life will be held Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, at 2 p.m. at Wrightstown Friends Meeting, 535 Durham Road, Newtown, PA 18940.

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