Markus O. Corn, 92, sheet metal worker who helped develop V-2 rocket for U.S.

June 29, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Markus O. Corn, a retired Edgewood Arsenal sheet metal worker who helped develop the U.S. version of the V-2 rocket, died Wednesday from congestive heart failure at Fallston General Hospital. He was 92.

Mr. Corn, who had resided in Benson, Harford County, since 1946, joined the weapons development laboratory at Edgewood Arsenal in 1942 and retired in 1972.

Considered an expert in experimental fabrication of weapons, he was assigned temporarily in 1945 to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. There, he worked with Wernher von Braun, the famed German rocket pioneer who was a major force in developing the V-2 rocket that was used to bomb London during the closing days of World War II.

After the war, Mr. von Braun and his team surrendered to U.S. forces and were sent to White Sands, where they voluntarily tested and worked on captured V-2s and developed the Saturn booster rocket that landed Apollo 11 astronauts on the moon in 1969.

"Because of his [Mr. Corn's] extensive metallurgical knowledge, he was asked to help build V-2 prototypes," said his daughter, Brenda Corn Eckstein of Bel Air. "The V-2 program was supervised by von Braun, who often complimented him on his work."

Longtime colleagues at Edgewood praised Mr. Corn's low-key approach to engineering and manufacturing problems.

"Mark could see the feasibility of a design immediately and would work diligently to help us young engineers not make fools of ourselves with our naive mistakes. He helped us all," said Bob Scranton, a retired Edgewood Arsenal engineer.

Cecil Hassell, a senior engineer at the Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command at Edgewood, recalled the first time he brought an equipment design to Mr. Corn for fabrication.

"Mark said to me, `Just let us look at this, and we will get it right.' He told me he'd stick by me, and we would work to get it right. He always told me he'd be there to help, and he always was," Mr. Hassell said.

Mr. Corn was born in Buncombe County, N.C. He was the son of an itinerant blacksmith who traveled from farm to farm in a horse and wagon, shoeing horses and repairing farm tools. His father taught him the trade.

He was descended from John Peter Corn, a flag bearer who served with George Washington and the Continental army during the Revolutionary War.

Mr. Corn owned a plumbing and heating company in North Carolina before working at Edgewood Arsenal.

His daughter said his favorite metal to work with was stainless steel.

"He liked working with stainless steel because it is virtually indestructible," said Mrs. Eckstein. "He got tired of making tailpipes for my Ford Mustang and finally made one out of stainless steel. The car wore out but the tailpipe didn't."

A man of medium build with a shock of white hair and blue eyes, Mr. Corn was seldom seen without a tie, jacket and his favorite Tyrolean hat.

An accomplished outdoorsman who enjoyed boating, fishing and camping, he was an environmentalist and past president of the Harford County chapter of the Izaak Walton League. He organized volunteers to keep the county's forests, streams and roadways free of trash.

Years ago, he led the effort to build a fishing pier at Harford Glen Park so league members could teach county youths the sport.

Since 1950, Mr. Corn had been a member of Mountain Christian Church in Joppa, where he was a deacon and trustee, and served on the building committee. He helped plan Walker Chapel, which is part of the church complex, and designed and handcrafted the brass vase holders on the chapel's altar.

He was a member of the Mount Arratt Lodge No. 44 in Bel Air; Scottish Rite of Free Masonry, Valley of Baltimore; and the Conowingo Scottish Rite Club, Orient of Maryland.

He was a charter member of the Maryland Golf and Country Club and a co-founder of the Bel Air Golf Club.

Services were held Saturday.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife of 52 years, the former Blanche Brendle; a stepson, Page W. Higgins Jr. of Redlands, Calif.; four grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters.

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