Gaylord Brown, 87, the founder of Beaverton, Mich.-based thermoforming equipment maker Brown Machine, died April 6. Brown had bone cancer, according to the company.
He founded Brown Machine in 1952. The company worked with Dow Chemical Co. of Midland, Mich., and Robinson Industries, a thermoforming company in nearby Coleman, Mich. Brown Machine's first project in plastics equipment was forming refrigerator door liners, according to a company history.
Richard Fassett, who worked at Brown from 1964-87, said Dow was interested in vacuum forming to promote its new resin, polystyrene, into the refrigerator market.
In 1961, Purex Inc. bought Brown Machine, beginning a series of ownership changes for the company. Through it all, Gaylord Brown continued to play a role with the machinery maker. He also worked as a consultant to Sweetheart Plastics, then a division of Maryland Cup Corp.
``He was a very important part of their organization'' who helped Sweetheart develop packaging innovations, Fassett said.
Brown retired in 1997 after working as a consultant to Brown Machine, a company spokeswoman said. The company benefited from his creative mechanical design talents throughout his life, she said. He held more than 50 patents. The Society of Plastics Engineers' Thermoforming Division named him Thermoformer of the Year in 1984.
Fassett recalled Brown as a ``heck of a nice guy'' who was well-liked. But he knew what he wanted.
``He was really a stickler for detail. On several occasions, you'd see him coming out on the floor and he'd have that head cocked out to the side, and you knew you were doing something he didn't approve of,'' Fassett said.
His mind was always working. ``He was quiet, not real outgoing,'' said Fassett. ``But he was constantly thinking about ways to improve things, about new machine designs. And those new machine designs quite often ended up on the back of a napkin over lunch.''
Brown died at Independence Village, a senior citizens' facility in Midland. A funeral service was held April 10 at Hall Funeral Home in Beaverton.
He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Marie.