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Paul A. Birchen, 93

Paul A. Birchen, age 93, of Hastings, died Jan. 20.

Survived by wife Rhoda; children, Lola (Allen) Ling, Bill (Dorreen), and Lisa; grandchildren, Paul Birchen, and Susan (Taylor) Jones; and great-grandson, Oliver.

Preceded in death by parents Phillip and Theresa; and sisters Mildred Dockstader, Monica Wildes, Martha Junglen, and Marian Konsbruck.

Paul was born Oct. 6, 1920, in Hastings, where he lived his entire life. In June, 1945, he met Rhoda Matsch at a wedding. They fell in love, and were married on May 25, 1946.

Paul served in the Eighth Air Force in the Second World War. He was based in England, and flew 23 missions, mostly over Germany. In July, 1944, the plane in which he was serving as top turret gunner engineer came under enemy attack and erupted in flames. Paul threw out burning flares and oxygen tanks, beat out the fire with his flack suit and repaired damage to the plane, saving the lives of the crew. His many military honors include the Silver Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal and a medal awarded by the French government, for his role in the air offensive in the Normandy invasion.

After the war, Paul worked for his father's petroleum products business, Local Oil Co. He eventually became the owner of the business, which he built and expanded over the years to include service stations and a convenience store. The business was passed on to son Bill, when Paul retired. Paul served on the board of directors of the Northwest Petroleum Association for several years, and was admired and respected by his colleagues.

Over the years, Paul and Rhoda enjoyed traveling to many foreign and U.S. destinations for Air Force reunions, business-related events, and to celebrate special anniversaries. Paul also went on hunting trips to Montana, and elsewhere with son Bill. In his later years, Paul was an avid reader and especially enjoyed books about World War II, and railroad history. He was a member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Knights of Columbus.

Paul was a quiet, honest, and hard-working man. He was a loving husband, dad and grandpa, and will be greatly missed by his family.

The family wishes to express sincere gratitude to the compassionate and skilled care provided from Allina Hospice and Acti-Kare.

Visitation will be held from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, and one hour prior to the 10:30 a.m. Funeral Service to be held Thursday, Jan. 23, at the Caturia-Smidt Funeral Home, 201 East Seventh St., Hastings.

Pallbearers are Allen Ling, Suzy Jones, Paul Birchen, Steve Matsch, Neil Matsch, and David Matsch. Memorials to Caring and Sharing Hands.

Arrangements were made with Caturia-Smidt Funeral Home, Hastings. 651-437-9419.

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