John J. Keville Jr., the man who spearheaded the National Plastics Center and Museum in his hometown of Leominster, Mass., died Nov. 4 in Jacksonville, Fla.
Keville, 96, died of heart failure and other problems, his son said.
In 1976, Keville and several other members of the Society of Plastics Engineers' Pioneer Valley Section came up with the idea of a museum in Leominster, birthplace of the modern U.S. plastics industry.
``The museum was his dream,'' said his son, John L. Keville.
The elder Keville graduated from Leominster High School in 1929, where he was captain of the track team. He loved to tell the story of a summer job at his uncle's factory, cutting teeth into blanks of cellulose nitrate to make combs. Cellulose nitrate was a highly flammable material, and Keville recalled water spraying down over the work area to keep the blanks from catching fire.
In a Plastics News' profile when he went into the Plastics Hall of Fame in 1994, Keville described the Leominster of his youth: ``There were a lot of families, particularly poor families, that would do what is called home work. They would take home boxes of Celluloid rings or bracelets and perform assembly operations - some small, hand-type of operation that could be done when the family was sitting around the kitchen table at night.''
The first group of formal, plastics museum trustees met in 1983. They began raising money. The city of Leominster sold a former schoolhouse to the organizers for $1. It needed major renovations, which came one floor at a time, as the donations came in.
Keville dedicated his retirement to the effort.
Finally, on June 14, 1992, leaders held grand opening ceremonies at the National Plastics Center and Museum - 16 years after those initial discussions. (The word ``museum'' was later dropped.)
Keville celebrated his 90th birthday at the National Plastics Center, with a party in his honor.
A large banquet and meeting room on the second floor is named the Keville Room.
Now Keville has returned home, forever. A funeral mass was held in Leominster Nov. 10 at St. Leo's Church on Main Street. Burial followed at St. Leo's Cemetery.