RYE, N.H. — Edwin Lafayette Hobson III, who sold resin for Bakelite Corp., then helped develop plastic body armor and other World War II innovations at the Office of the Quartermaster General during World War II, died Dec. 15 in a single-car accident in Rye. He was 84. Hobson's car hit a patch of black ice, slid off the road and hit a tree, according to his son, Mark Thomas Hobson.
He was driving to the Manchester airport for his weekly commute to Cleveland and his business in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, called Abanaki Corp. Hobson handled advertising for the environmental products company, which makes machines called belt skimmers that remove surface oils from liquid-holding tanks.
According to family and friends, Hobson maintained an active life, keeping in touch with old business and wartime associates, riding his bike and exercising.
"He was really a people person," said Harold Holz, who talked to Hobson the night before the crash.
Holz, a consultant to Marval Industries Inc. of Mamaroneck, N.Y., said Hobson was active in the Plastics Institute of America and the Plastics Pioneers Association.
An obituary issued by Abanaki said Hobson "was motivated by relentless energy, genuine and contagious optimism whatever the obstacles, and an irrepressible zest for living."
Hobson earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1937. He then became Bakelite's first thermoplastic sales and technical service engineer, from 1937-41. After enlisting in the U.S. Army, he became chief of the plastics section in the Military Planning Division of the Office of the Quartermaster.
Hobson was the co-inventor of plastic body armor. He also was instrumental in developing standardized plastic packaging, vinyl-coated fabrics and helmet liners. Research by his group led to the first commercial production of polyethylene film, according to the company-produced obituary.
Hobson, who reached the rank of lieutenant colonel, received the Legion of Merit award for "conceiving, developing and being personally responsible for the vital role played by plastic materials in World War II."
After the war, he worked at Monsanto Co., as the company marketed polystyrene, ABS, phenolics, vinyl and PE films. He retired from Monsanto in 1968 as vice president of marketing at Monsanto's Gering Division.
That same year he co-founded Aladdin Synergetics Inc. in Nashville, Tenn., to make plastic food-holding systems for hospitals and airlines. In the early 1980s, Hobson founded Abanaki. The company's belt skimmers use polymer-coated fabric belts.