Christian Kurrle, 75, engineer, advocate of bay preservation


Christian Kurrle, a civilian aerospace engineer at the Pentagon for 20 years and an advocate of preserving the Chesapeake Bay and the Magothy River, died Wednesday of heart failure at North Arundel Hospital. He was 75.

Mr. Kurrle worked in the Pentagon's Air Force Office of Research and Development, concentrating on the development of aircraft engines between 1953 and 1973. In the early 1960s, he was on then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's committee on supersonic transport.

In 1964, he was one of 180 key government officials and senior officers chosen to attend the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C., which studied national security issues.

Mr. Kurrle, who lived in Severna Park for 46 years, was committed to the preservation of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

He was a 40-year member of the Magothy River Association, which represents several dozen communities along the river's edge. At his death, he was the association's vice president.

Mr. Kurrle spearheaded one of the association's more ambitious projects in recent years -- the planting of "oyster gardens" in the river.

The shellfish, which are natural filters, help remove sediment, algae and other pollutants from the water.

Working with environmental groups, Mr. Kurrle encouraged people to seed oyster beds under piers or sandbars. His home, on the Magothy River's banks, became a makeshift storehouse for project materials.

Largely through his efforts, hundreds of oyster gardens now dot the Magothy River, said Ted Connell, president of the Magothy River Association. "He was the kind of a person who was the backbone of this kind of a group," Mr. Connell said. "He was a key player, and we'll sure miss him."

Mr. Kurrle also conducted long-term studies on pollution sources in tributaries and creeks. His reports, complete with analyses and photos, are used for planning purposes to avoid problems such as storm-water runoff, Mr. Connell said.

Mr. Kurrle was also a former president of the Arundel Beach Club, a Severna Park community association.

Born and reared in Baltimore, Mr. Kurrle received a degree in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology 1941. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.

In 1946, he returned to the Baltimore area, where he was an engineer for the Glenn L. Martin Co. in Essex for four years. Before starting his Pentagon career, Mr. Kurrle worked for the U.S. Department of Intelligence from 1950 to 1953 in research and development.

In addition to his environmental work, Mr. Kurrle was active in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts of America. He was the recipient of the Boy Scouts' highest honor, the Silver Beaver award.

A memorial service for Mr. Kurrle will be held at 4 p.m. today at Barranco and Sons Funeral Home, 495 Ritchie Highway, Severna Park.

Mr. Kurrle is survived by his wife of 51 years, the former Ruth CoVault of Severna Park; two daughters, Susan K. Smith of Severna Park and Lisa K. Kupper of Arlington, Va.; three sons, Christian L. Kurrle of Marquette, Mich., Steven C. Kurrle of Chester and Brent A. Kurrle of Pasadena; a sister, Marguerite Riley of Severna Park; and five grandchildren.

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