Robert Charles Bazzell of Novi, an automotive executive who led projects around the globe died April 9 of complications from Alzheimer’s and COVID-19.
Bazzell was born in 1932 in Oklahoma City to Robert S. and Trula F. Bazzell, a southern Baptist minister and lay leader. The family served churches in Oklahoma, except for a nearly three-year period during World War II when his father served overseas as a U.S. Army chaplain.
The 88-year-old had worked as a paperboy as a child, built model airplanes, and graduated from Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1950.
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On a family trip to California in 1947, Bazzell — then 15, and without a driver’s license — helped drive the family car along Route 66, an experience that kindled a lifelong interest in cars and travel.
His high school shop teacher recognized his mechanical ability and suggested that he apply to the General Motors Institute in Michigan. He attended GMI for three years and then, at his parents’ request, returned home and graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1955. He later earned advanced degrees in automotive engineering and business administration.
Bazzell married the former Carole Ann Murray in 1955, in Flint. The couple had five children.
Bazzell’s work at Chrysler, and then General Motors, took the family to Bogota, Colombia, for four years. He traveled around the world on GM business including Eastern Europe and Russia in the early 1990s. His last overseas post was to Switzerland in 1989-91. He retired from GM in 1997.
Bazzell’s Interests included genealogy, international travel, languages, computer technology, golf, skiing and boating.
He brought his extended family together each summer for gatherings in western Michigan.
Bazzell is survived by his wife, Carole, brother David (Trisha), children Mary Teresa “Terry” Sears, Mark Bazzell (Cheryl) and Martha Hirschman (Dave), son-in-law Michael Spruit, 13 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by son Andrew Bazzell and daughter Kathleen “Katy” Spruit.
The family suggests memorial contributions to the Alzheimer’s Association or to the Fox Run Resident Care Fund, 41200 Fox Run Road, Novi.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Robert Charles Bazzell, retired automotive engineer, died of COVID-19 complications