Feb. 24, 1924 – Oct. 13, 2013
William J. Spry, Ph.D., a retired vice president at Great Lakes Carbon Co. in Niagara Falls and a former president of the Lewiston-Porter School Board, died Oct. 13 in Pittsburgh after a lengthy illness. He was 89.
Dr. Spry earned his bachelor’s degree and doctorate in physics from the University of Rochester and worked for 30 years in research and management, primarily in the carbon industry, retiring in 1986.
He held several patents, including the first patent for producing high-modulus high-strength carbon fiber.
He worked for Union Carbide in Ohio from 1954 to 1965 and, as a research leader in the early 1960s, was the first to discover how to manufacture carbon fibers from rayon. He then became associate director of the Materials Science Center at Cornell University before going to Niagara Falls as a general manager for Carborundum Corp. In 1979, he joined Great Lakes Carbon.
Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., he grew up in Plymouth, Pa., and Berwick, Pa., and was valedictorian of his class at Berwick High School. He started studying at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., but was drafted into the Army in 1943.
An infantryman, he was trained as a radio repairman and attained the rank of technician third grade, equivalent of staff sergeant. Stationed in England and Europe with the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, he ran the movie projector for Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in Cornwall, England, prior to the Normandy Invasion.
Later, he served at headquarters in Versailles, France, and Frankfurt, Germany, and took part in the Rhineland Campaign.
In retirement, Dr. Spry taught courses at Niagara University and Niagara County Community College. An advocate of fiscal responsibility, he served on the Lewiston-Power Board of Education, from 1991 to 1997, and in 2001 filled a vacant seat for one year. Twice he was chosen board president.
For many years, he was a member of the Youngstown Zoning Board of Appeals. A board member of the Town of Porter Historical Society, he was instrumental in obtaining the charter for its museum.
Dr. Spry was a member of Lake Ontario Post 313, Veterans of Foreign Wars, in Youngstown and served as surgeon. He was a life member of the 3 F (Fin, Fur and Feather) Conservation Club, the Tuscarora Yacht Club and the Old Fort Niagara Association. Also a member of the Youngstown Yacht Club, he enjoyed sailing his boat, April, on Lake Ontario.
He was a member of St. John Lutheran Church in Youngstown and the Youngstown Senior Citizens Club and was active in the Youngstown Free Library Book Club.
After seeing a television documentary on how the ancient Egyptians used sand to raise obelisks, he researched the topic, wrote articles and obtained patents on using flowable particulate matter to control movement.
With his wife, Beverly, he attended many Elderhostel programs and traveled extensively in the U.S. and Canada by train. He also was an expert at Sodoku, consistently solving Level 5 puzzles.
His first wife, Margaret Anderson Spry, died in 1990. He married Beverly Roberts Gounard in 1997.
In addition to his wife, survivors include a son, David; three daughters, Kathleen, Elsie and Mary Roth; and two stepdaughters, Anne-Marie Gonzalez and Emilie Steuer.
A graveside service will be at 2 p.m. Nov. 29 in Busti Cemetery, 875 Mill Road, Jamestown.