Charles W. Kleiderer, who coordinated a World War II effort to develop plastic parts for a top-secret artillery fuze, died May 26. He was 83.
His wife, Roberta Kleiderer, said he died from respiratory failure. He had become ill after Christmas, she said.
A native of Henderson, Ky., he was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame in 1994. He enjoyed a long career in plastics.
Following the war, he worked at Brilhart Plastics Corp. of Mineola, N.Y., and Penn Plastics Corp. of Glenside, Pa. He became executive vice president of custom molder Shaw Plastics Corp. in Middlesex, N.J., and retired from Shaw in the early 1990s.
But he considered his WWII proximity-fuze mission the highlight of his career. The fuze greatly improved the explosive accuracy of U.S. missiles, helping the U.S. Navy push to Japan. A New York Times article shortly after the war hailed the project, comparing the proximity fuze to the atomic bomb.
When the fuze development began, 14 molders were involved. At peak production, about 500 companies molded enough parts for 40,000 fuzes a day.
Plastic parts on the fuze housings and battery components were made from ethyl cellulose, methyl methacrylate, butyrate and other early resins. Kleiderer developed a new plastic material, which he called Cliderite, to seal and cushion the parts.
Kleiderer won several awards, including the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ordnance's Naval Ordnance Development Award. After the war, he traveled the country giving speeches and touring plants - the first time the molders learned details of the project.
He died at Lakes Region Hospital in Laconia, N.H. He was buried May 29 in Bradford, Mass. He and his wife resided in Haverhill, Mass.
Kleiderer retained his soft Kentucky accent throughout his life.
``When he wanted to be charming, it would get just a little bit stronger,'' Roberta said.
He enjoyed stamp collecting and tending to flower gardens at their second house in Guilford, N.H.
Jack O'Brien, former vice president of engineering at Shaw Plastics, delivered the eulogy. O'Brien said Kleiderer ``had the kind of personality that encouraged a friendly atmosphere in any situation, whether it be business or social. ... Charlie's leadership and enthusiasm were a kind of tonic.''
Memorials may be sent to the Plastics Pioneers Association in Greer, S.C.