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Obit: Dr. William J. Spry

by jmaloni
Fri, Nov 22nd 2013 10:55 pm

William J. Spry Jr. of Wheatfield, formerly of Youngstown, passed away Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, at the age of 89, following a long illness and three years on dialysis.

Bill was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., the son of William J. Spry Sr. and Mary Regina Barry. He grew up in Plymouth and Berwick, Pa., and graduated from Berwick High School in 1942 as valedictorian of his senior class. He started his college studies at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., but was drafted into the U.S. Army in March 1943.

Bill served in the infantry where he was trained as a radio repairman and attained the rank of technician third grade (staff sergeant). He was stationed in England and Europe. As a member of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SCHAEF), he had the privilege of showing movies to Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower in Cornwall, England, prior to the invasion of Europe. After the invasion, he served at the SCHAEF headquarters in Versailles, France, and Frankfurt, Germany. He participated in the Rhineland Campaign and received the Good Conduct Medal, European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one Bronze Star, and the World War II Victory Medal. He was honorably discharged in February 1946.

Upon his return from World War II, Bill enrolled at the University of Rochester where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in physics in 1949 and his Ph.D. in nuclear physics in 1954. He then spent 30 years working in research and management, primarily in the carbon industry. He was employed by Union Carbide Corp., The Materials Science Center at Cornell University, Carborundum Co., and Great Lakes Carbon Co. He retired as vice president of Great Lakes Carbon Co. in 1986.

During his career, he obtained several patents, most notably the first patent for producing high modulus and high strength carbon fiber. During his years of employment, he was also active in the community, serving on the board of directors for the Girls Club of America and the United Givers Fund. In his spare time, he enjoyed playing backgammon and sailing with his family on the Great Lakes.

In retirement, Bill remained very active. He taught courses at Niagara University and Niagara Community College. He became a deacon and served on the session at the First Presbyterian Church in Youngstown. He served two three-year terms on the Lewiston-Porter Board of Education and subsequently filled a vacant seat for one year. He also served twice as president of the school board.

For many years, he was a member of the Village of Youngstown Zoning Board of Appeals. He served on the board of the Town of Porter Historical Society and was instrumental in helping that organization obtain both the temporary and permanent charters for their museum. He joined the VFW Lake Ontario Post 313 in Youngstown and served as surgeon. He actively participated in the Youngstown Free Library Book Club.

He was a life member of the 3F (Fin, Fur and Feather) Club, the Tuscarora Yacht Club and the Old Fort Niagara Association. He had been a member of the Youngstown Yacht Club and the Youngstown Senior Citizens Club. He became a member of St. John Lutheran Church in Youngstown.

He met monthly with fellow retirees from the Carborundum Co., and particularly enjoyed meeting with a group of retired guys that had lunch at The Jug in Youngstown. He sailed his beloved boat, "April," on Lake Ontario. He became interested in ancient engineering techniques after watching a documentary on television about how the ancient Egyptians raised obelisks using sand. This led to much thought and discussion, and new patents and publications on employing flowable particulate matter to control movement.

He did Sudoku puzzles and could consistently do Level 5s. With his wife, Beverley, he attended many Elderhostel programs, and traveled throughout the USA and Canada by train.

Bill is survived by his wife, Beverley, whom he married in 1997; his daughters, Kathleen Spry, Elsie Spry (Hans Ward) and Mary (Chris) Roth; and his son, David Spry. He is also survived by Beverley's daughters, Anne-Marie (Angelo) Gonzalez and Emilie (Keith) Steuer. He enjoyed being grandpa to nine grandchildren. His wife, Margaret A. Spry, predeceased him in 1990.

A private memorial service will be held at a later date. Interment will be in Busti Cemetery in Busti, NY. If desired, memorials may be made to the Salvation Army or to St. John Lutheran Church, 420 Lockport St., Youngstown, NY 14174.

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