Robert K. Mays, 72, renowned chemical engineer

September 21, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Robert K. Mays, an internationally known chemical engineer who helped to develop a compound that keeps table salt from caking, died Tuesday of complications from kidney disease at his Havre de Grace residence. He was 72.

In a 33-year career with the J. M. Huber Corp., Mr. Mays advanced from chemical engineer to technical director of the Havre de Grace facility and acquired 29 patents and more than 150 foreign patents. He retired in 1982.

Mr. Mays helped to create sodium silico aluminate, also known as Zeolex, a colorless, tasteless, odorless compound that keeps table salt from caking.

"I remember when we were kids Dad bringing home a container of Morton salt and pouring it and pointing to the slogan, 'When it Rains it Pours,' " said a son, Kenneth C. Mays of Ellicott City.

"He then showed us the list of contents which said it contained sodium silico aluminate, the very thing he had made," said the son.

His work with improving the printability of newsprint brought him widespread recognition. He lectured throughout the United States and in Canada, England, Sweden, Finland and France.

Lloyd Williams, who worked in the laboratory with Mr. Mays, described him as being "gregarious and easygoing and one who possessed tremendous knowledge and liked being involved in research."

"He was one of those researchers who didn't sit in a room staring at the ceiling dreaming. He actually went into the lab and worked with the equipment," said Mr. Lill.

Mr. Mays was born in Bradford, Pa. After beginning engineering studies at Pennsylvania State University, he enlisted in the Army during World War II.

He was a staff sergeant serving with the 2nd Platoon, Company H, 335th Infantry Division when he was wounded at the Battle of the Bulge. He received the Purple Heart.

"A Bible that his mother had given him saved his life," said his son. "A shell tore through it and stopped at John, Chapter 6, verses 37-40, which begins 'The Bread of Life,' and we will be reading that at his funeral."

After being discharged in 1945, Mr. Mays returned to Penn State where he completed his education on the GI Bill and graduated magna cum laude in 1949 with a degree in chemical engineering.

He was a devout Penn State football fan and this, according to family members, was his major leisure-time interest.

He also liked golfing and was a member of Swan Creek Country Club. In addition, he was a member of the Penn State Alumni Association and the Susquehanna River Hills Community Association.

In 1946, he married Joanne K. McIntyre, who died in 1971. His marriage later to Judy A. Haggett ended in divorce.

Services will be held at 10: 30 a.m. today at Tarring-Cargo Funeral Home, 333 Parke Street, Aberdeen.

He is survived by another son, Robert M. Mays of Aberdeen; a daughter, Nancy Jane Adams of Harwood, Anne Arundel County; two brothers, Dr. William G. Mays of Tulsa, Oka. and Dr. Richard R. Mays of Muncy, Pa.; five grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

Pub Date: 9/21/96

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