Orlando-Based Construction Manager Killed While in Iraq

Wed December 22, 2004 - Southeast Edition

ORLANDO (AP) An Orlando builder who managed construction projects in Iraq for a Pennsylvania company has died after he and his boss were shot and killed outside Baghdad, officials said.

Joseph Wemple, a project manager of CLI USA, an engineering-construction contractor, was returning from a new job site on Wednesday, Dec. 8, when he and Dale Stoffel, the company’s vice president for international development, were ambushed and killed, said William Irey, president of Frank Irey Construction.

Irey is the brother of Robert Irey, chief executive of the Canonsburg, PA-based company. Information on Stoffel was not immediately available.

Wemple was beginning work on CLI’s latest project, retrofitting a facility in Taji, north of Baghdad, so it could refurbish Soviet-era armored vehicles for the Iraqi civil-defense force. He had also helped “westernize” the Iraqi Ministry of Defense annex facility and worked on an Iraqi police training facility.

A call after hours to CLI was not immediately returned.

William Irey, whose construction firm is a major Disney contractor, helped Wemple get the CLI job.

“I said, ’Joe, why do you want to do this?’” Irey said. “He said, ’September 11, [President] Bush did a good job clearing the terrorists out of Afghanistan. This is the next step.’”

Irey said Wemple told him that if Iraqis were out working with Americans and earning money to support their families, they would be less inclined to hurt Americans.

“This was his way of serving his country and helping to protect his family,” Irey said.

Wemple was scheduled to fly home to central Florida in early December to be with his longtime partner, Debra Mize, and their 5-year-old son, Matthew, for the holidays.

“He wanted to rebuild a country, not just a building,” Wemple’s brother, Bruce, said. “He was over there for the people.”