Lawrence L. Heffner, 87, textile mill chemist

January 13, 2000

Lawrence L. Heffner, a retired chemical engineer who invented a treatment that retarded flame from spreading on canvas tents, died Sunday at Genesis Elder Care in Brooklandville. He was 87 and had lived in Crofton and Sudbrook Park.

He was chief chemist at William E. Hooper and Sons textile mills in Woodberry from 1933 to 1958. During that time, he patented a treatment for cotton-duck canvas that curbed fire and mildew.

The process was widely used by the armed forces during World War II and by the Ringling Brothers circus.

"There was a terrible circus fire [in Hartford, Conn., in 1944] and the Ringling people wanted a material that wouldn't burn," said his daughter, Roxanne Maffitt of Towson. "John Ringling North himself came down and consulted with my father personally."

In 1958, Mr. Heffner became an associate professor at North Carolina State University in Raleigh under a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set standards for flame retardants for the cotton industry. He retired in 1980.

Born in Rouzerville, Pa., he arrived in Baltimore as a child. He earned a degree in chemical engineering at the Johns Hopkins University in 1933.

His brother, Don Heffner, manager of the International League Baltimore Orioles and a major league second baseman, died in 1989.

Funeral services were held Tuesday.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife of 68 years, the former Mildred Steinhagen of Oak Crest Village; two other daughters, Joan Conway of Greenbelt and Laurie Scheft of Chapel Hill, N.C.; a sister, Helen Hauser of Eldersburg; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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