Frank Gehling, 70, Retired Norwalk Race Car Driver

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NORWALK, Conn. – Frank Gehling of Norwalk died Nov. 14 at his home. He was 70.

Born May 5, 1942, in Newton, Mass., he was the son of Daniel Chester Gehling and Esther Lawson. He had a love for race car driving early on and began his racing career at age 16.

As a pit crewman, Gehling traveled to more than 40 races a year. He became interested in driving when a driver was late one night and he was asked to fill in.

When he was 19, Gehling purchased a three-quarter midget and fudged his age to obtain a racing license. He competed during the winter months indoors in Hempstead, N.Y. In 1963, he was introduced to stock car racing and the Southern New York Racing Association.

Gehling competed for half a season without much success and returned to open cockpit midgets. He sold his three-quarter midget and bought a full-size Offy-powered midget. During his first year with the car, he finished fourth in driver points and fifth in owner points. He was named Most Improved Driver of the Year by the Northeastern Midget Association.

His most memorable win was the 100-lap New England Midget Championship on Sept. 2, 1967, at Westboro Speedway in Massachusetts. In 1968, Gehling crashed at Nazareth Speedway in Pennsylvania and spent months in the hospital. He retired early from racing at age 26.

Later in life, he worked as a supervisor and director of maintenance at the former Fairfield Manor Health Care Center of Norwalk for more than 20 years.

Gehling is survived by a son, Roger Gehling of Norwalk; and a sister, Shirley Balla of Keene, N.H. He was predeceased by his wife, Leslie Jane Minor.

A memorial service was held Tuesday at Hoyt-Cognetta Funeral Home.

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