LEOMINSTER, MASS. - A $1 million donation by the family of reciprocating screw inventor William H. Willert helped enliven the National Plastics Center & Museum festivities held June 1 in honor of John J. Keville's 90th birthday.
Willert's idea revolutionized injection molding. He invented the reciprocating screw in 1952 and received the first U.S. patent in 1956. It is used on almost all injection molding machinery today.
In 1973, Willert was a member of the first class inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame. He also received the Society of Plastics Engineers' top honor, the International Award, in 1977.
Willert died Sept. 13, but his family wanted to fulfill one of his wishes.
``Bill cared so much for the industry, and we just wanted to give something back,'' said his wife, Eleanor Willert.
The donation, the second $1 million gift in the center's history, bolsters its finances and supports its long-term goals.
``The board of directors will put a large part of the money into an endowment,'' said Valerie Wilcox, executive director of the NPCM, ``And because of this, the future is pretty well assured.''
In gratitude, Wilcox announced that the gallery outside the second floor Hall of Fame exhibit is named in Willert's honor. Wilcox also noted that this was not a first-time gift by the Willerts, as they had supported the museum in past years as well.
``There really is a national effort to support the museum. People do take a personal role - they come here and support it,'' said Leominster Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella.
He marveled at the former school building, which the city sold for $1 to the museum.
Keville, who was a driving force in the creation of NPCM, was the honored guest of the evening.
A Leominster native, Keville remembers working for his uncle cutting combs from blanks of cellulose nitrate. He later went on to a variety of plastics jobs, mostly in sales. He also ran a manufacturers' representative business before retiring in 1980.
Keville then applied his salesmanship to pursue his passion - that of building a museum and a center for the plastics industry. NPCM opened its doors in 1992.