P4-2019-10 – Rol Titsworth Tribute
By Dennis Denyer
This past week I received a phone call telling me that our long-time Southeast Michigan Region member, Rol Titsworth, had passed away peacefully at the grand old age of 93. For our newer members, Rol was a cornerstone of our Region for many years, he and wife Maxine could be seen at nearly every event, from our monthly dinner meetings to tours, to our monthly track events at Waterford Hills Race Track. Rol was a long-time sports car enthusiast, starting out like many did, with an MG. Rol’s was a MG-TC (with the very tall wire wheels) and it was always concours ready but his was a cut above,,, his was SUPERCHARGED !!! In later years, together with another SEM/PCAer, he bought, built and raced a Lotus 7 at Waterford Hills.
In 1969, Rol dove off into the deep end, purchasing a new 911S in the color Golden Green from then Porsche dealer, Erhard Motors, joining SEM/PCA shortly thereafter. The standard 160 horsepower proved to be a little short of what he wanted and the 911 soon sported a 2.6 liter with Weber carburetors. A few years later, Rol got the hots for a 914-6 but they were out of production, only the four cylinder versions were available. No problem. Chuck Stoddard ordered a painted 914 body with a fitted interior, all 914-6 chassis reinforcements, basically a complete automobile less engine, transmission, suspension and brakes. It too, was in Golden Green. The body arrived in Willoughby in a wooden crate and was completed with parts from the Stoddard Imported Cars parts department. It too, had a 2.6 with Webers but with twin plug cylinder heads. These two cars were driven often by Rol and Maxine and, when sold back in the 90’s, each had over 40,000 miles.
Rol’s specialty was tours and his were legendary, always with Maxine at his side and often to some out-of-the-way destinations known only to the locals but always featuring great meals. Rol and Maxine’s favorite destination was to Berea, Kentucky, home of an excellent culinary college and we made this trek many times, always on the back roads away from the Interstates. Probably his most remembered tour was to Red Key, Indiana to Shambargers Restaurant, featuring an eleven course dinner!
Rol was a very big help at our first Porsche Parade in Traverse City, known as Great Lakes ’89, Rol and Gary Buchanan handled sponsorships, something very new to Parades of that time. Many of the sponsors came by way of a phone call and meeting with Rol, he was an eloquent and enthusiastic PCAer. In addition, Rol arranged for many Tech Sessions by well known parts, service and accessories providers.
Rol was one of the most fascinating men I have ever met. We were meeting every Saturday morning for our Breakfast Club informal gatherings at Neil Goldberg’s business and when I would arrive at around 7:00am, Rol was usually there waiting for me. We had an hour, or so, before the rest of the guys arrived and I would hear the reports of Rol and Maxine’s grandkids and how well they were doing, he was so very proud of them. Daughter Mary and Son-in-Law Vance were living in Illinois with their boys but Rol and Maxine kept close tabs with their family. I looked forward to our visits and I learned so much more about my good friend.
Growing up, Rol lived with his mother in Bloomington, Illinois, graduated from high school right at the end of the war in Europe and was drafted into the army. Graduation was in late March (Bloomington was a farming community) but Rol didn’t have to report until July, so he and his best friend hitchhiked to California. There were no interstates, they didn’t come about until the mid-fifties, so the boys travelled the famed Route 66. Upon arrival in California, they wandered throughout the southern part, but soon, Rol hitchhiked back, by himself, to Illinois for induction as Rol’s buddy was deferred due to a medical issue. Rol served in Europe, involved in the logistics of gathering the war materiel and arranging for its shipment back to the U.S. or for disposal. When his hitch was over and his troop ship arrived in New York, each soldier was discharged and given a train ticket home. When asked where his home was, Rol responded, “Los Angeles”. When he arrived in L.A., he was met by his old hometown buddy and they headed north to Santa Barbara where they opened a restaurant, or hamburger stand. They operated the stand with some success but, soon, Rol received a letter from his Father, telling him that he was needed back east to Detroit, to help in Dad’s candy wholesaling business.
Rol’s father operated the business himself but needed a salesperson. Upon his arrival, Rol began selling candies, specializing in smaller stores, as the manufacturers kept the large supermarkets for themselves. Soon, he bought his first new car, a Plymouth Convertible, much to the dismay of his father who thought a station wagon was more practical,,, you could get more candy into a station wagon, he reasoned. Never-the-less, Rol would head out each day with a trunk full of cases of candy, hitting every mom and pop corner market. Frequently, Rol would head into the UP, taking the car ferry across the straits and call on every small market he could until he sold all if his “stock”. In 1954, Rol married Maxine and they raised their daughter, Mary. Once Mary was in school, Maxine began managing the office for Wolverine Associates while Rol built up the business. Eventually, they had offices and warehouses in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Traverse City.
When Rol was ready to retire, they sold the business and Rol went into the used Porsche business; Wolverine Auto with an office at Neil Goldberg’s business in Troy. Rol and Maxine, each year, would leave after the Christmas Holidays, drive to Florida to visit friends and relatives, then head across the southern states to San Diego. Rol would keep his eyes open for good, low mileage 911’s and would ship a few back here where he would sell them, always with a PCA application in the glovebox.
For many years, Rol was Membership Chairman for SEM and continued his Club activities. Rol and Maxine moved into the Oakwood Commons Retirement Community in Dearborn and he often, could be heard on radio in commercials for them. Unfortunately, Maxine passed away a couple of years ago, Rol lost his best friend. Rol stayed at Oakwood Commons and was doing well up until a couple of weeks before his passing. Rol was the man we should all have emulated, he managed to balance his devotion to Maxine, Mary and Vance, their Grandkids, his Faith, his hobbies and his friends. I was pleased to be one of them. I miss you, Rol.