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Charles F. Kreiner, rode ‘Rocket Belt’ to fame in early Bond film, ‘Thunderball’

Dec. 5, 1919 – Nov. 28, 2015

As public-relations director at Bell Aerospace Textron in Wheatfield for 26 years, Charles F. Kreiner directed the national rollout of Bell’s Rocket Belt, a jet pack strapped to someone’s back, allowing that person to fly short distances using low rocket power.

Mr. Kreiner made quite a mass media splash in the 1960s with that device, first in one of the earliest James Bond movies, “Thunderball,” and then at halftime of the first Super Bowl, known then as the First World Championship Game, in January 1967.

A fifth-generation Buffalonian who also served as a pilot during World War II, Mr. Kreiner died Nov. 28 in his Snyder home, where he had lived for the last 65 years. He was 95.

He graduated from Nichols School in 1939 and attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School before becoming a pilot for the Naval Air Transport Service during the war. In that role, he ferried materials and supplies from the United States to Senegal, Morocco, the Azores and Ireland. Following the war, he piloted commercial airliners for Pan American Airways for three years.

Returning to Buffalo in 1948, Mr. Kreiner started working for William E. Kreiner and Sons Malt and Grain, the family business started by his grandfather in 1878 that supplied raw materials to local breweries.

After the company was dissolved in 1960, he became director of public relations and advertising at Bell Aerospace Textron.

After retiring from Bell in 1986, he and his wife, the former Elsa Marie Jung, traveled extensively and spent time in Florida and on the Canadian lakeshore.

Mr. Kreiner was a former director and 49-year member of the Buffalo Club, a 77-year member of the Buffalo Canoe Club, and a 69-year member of the Cherry Hill Club.

At the time of his death, he still was an active trustee of the Bell Fund. He also had been president and director of both the Aero Club of Buffalo and the University of Pennsylvania Club of Western New York, as well as a former deacon at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

After a stay in an independent-living facility earlier this year, Mr. Kreiner was able to return to his longtime Snyder home on Nov. 18.

“I made him a martini on Thanksgiving,” his oldest son, Charles Jr., said. “He was interactive and conversant, and he died peacefully, surrounded by his family, two days later.”

Mr. Kreiner’s wife of 67 years, Elsa, died in 2010.

He is survived by three sons, Charles, George and Daniel; one daughter, Elisa Stephens; nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

A private memorial service was held Dec. 5, which would have been his 96th birthday.

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