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Bill Taufman, designer of planes, dead at 94

Bill Taufman, a Huntington Station resident who designed planes for Republic Aviation and studied whether vegetables could be grown on the moon, died last week at 94.

"They called him the moon gardener," said his wife, Hannelore Taufman, 80. "He was always into something new."

A lifelong hunter and outdoorsman, Taufman served in the Army Air Corps during World War II and played football for Texas A&M University. He and his wife also bred German shorthaired pointers, which they took to dog shows and competed in field trails.

"There was always a batch of puppies to play with," said their son, Curtis Taufman of Melville, the youngest of four brothers. "They would train them to point with little pheasant feathers on the end of a pole and string."

A bright, quiet man who could fix just about anything, Taufman loved spending time in the woods with his wife and his dogs. "People looked at him as . . . an elder in the hunting world," his son said.

Taufman was born in San Francisco in 1916 to German immigrant parents. After a brief move back to Germany, the family came to New York, living in Jackson Heights, Queens, and in upstate Haverstraw.

He attended City College of New York and was drafted into the Army in 1942. Taufman trained paratroopers in Florida, then went to Germany after the war during the U.S. occupation.

Taufman met his future wife there, in Stuttgart. These were lean years for Germans; he won over his wife's family by bringing them deer and birds he shot in the woods. "He got the whole neighborhood something to eat," his wife said.

They married in 1949 and moved to Texas, where Taufman studied agricultural and mechanical engineering at Texas A&M. Curtis Taufman said the Philadelphia Eagles wanted to draft his father, but he chose engineering instead.

The family moved to Long Island and Taufman got a job designing planes for Republic Aviation. In the 1950s, he was put on the lunar garden project. He grew beans and carrots in pressurized bell jars to see if plants could survive on the moon to nourish space travelers.

Taufman retired in the 1980s and remained an active hunter until a few years ago. He died on May 6 after complications from a fall. He is also survived by three sons, Ralph, Christopher and Wayne Taufman, all of Huntington.

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