Dewey Rainville, a plastics machinery pioneer and innovator who held more than 15 patents, died Dec. 9 in Summit. He was 91. The cause of death was heart failure.
Rainville of Summit, N.J., overcame a Depression-era childhood spent in an orphanage and a series of foster homes to invent several blow molding technologies that ushered in plastic bottles for wide consumer acceptance. He also launched several machinery companies, including Rainville Co., Universal Dynamics Inc. (Una-Dyn) and Conair Group.
At a young age in the foster home system, he ran away and began supporting himself while also attending school. He signed up for the military program in high school because the uniform came with something he desperately needed — a new pair of shoes.
He earned a position in the first Naval Officers' Training program at the University of Colorado, graduating in 1945 with a degree in aeronautical engineering.
After serving a tour of duty in the South Pacific, Rainville focused his career on the plastics industry. He developed technology that allowed the blow molding of large plastic containers, including the first Jerry can, or portable plastic fuel container. He was awarded a patent for developing the technology enabling quality neck finishes for plastic bottles, so they could have form-fitting tops — a method that is still used today.
Rainville was a fellow of the Society of Plastics Engineers, and was inducted into the Plastics Pioneers Association in 1986. He won the Milacron David Noffsinger Award for Engineering & Technical Excellence, the New Jersey SPE Award for Technical Achievement and the SPE Blow Molding Achievement Award.
He also was dedicated to improving safety and education in the plastics industry. Rainville was active in developing safety standards for blow molding machines and auxiliary equipment. He was a major contributor to the ANSI safety standard for injection blow molding. He lectured around the world on issues of safety.
In his later years, Rainville devoted time to supporting the collection of the National Plastics Center, housed at Syracuse University. He also was a patron of the arts, serving as president of the opera in Newark, N.J., and was a longtime patron of the Metropolitan Opera.
Rainville is survived by his wife of 69 years, Nancy, and their children and their spouses: Donald and Marilyn Rainville, Denise and Sandy Hoe, Jeffrey and Rosanne Rainville, Mark and Gay Parks Rainville, and Christina Rainville and Peter Greenberg. Also surviving are 11 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.