Elias Stewart "Stew" Friant Jr., a manufacturer of sports equipment and a lacrosse coach and player who developed an early plastic lacrosse stick, died Thursday at his home near Towson of congestive heart failure after a brief illness. He was 77 and had lived for more than 40 years in Mount Washington.
Born in Baltimore, Mr. Friant graduated from Polytechnic Institute and enlisted in the Army Air Forces as a cadet in 1943. He served stateside until the end of World War II. He later joined the Maryland Air National Guard, serving from 1948 to 1954 with the 104th Fighter Squadron.
Mr. Friant graduated in 1950 with a bachelor of science degree in business engineering from the Johns Hopkins University. He was a goalie on the university's 1948 and 1949 national championship lacrosse teams.
During the 1950s and early 1960s, he was a purchasing agent for several local companies, including Proctor-Silex Co., Airpax Corp. and the Glenn L. Martin Co.
In 1964, he founded the American Insulation and Stamping Co. in his basement to make items such as plastic die-cuttings and stampings - things he was unable to find as a purchaser. The business expanded with orders from overseas and soon included the manufacture of sports equipment such as helmets and goals for soccer and lacrosse.
Mr. Friant ran the business until he became ill in November, said Raymond W. Snow, a son-in-law and Hopkins graduate who now lives in Palm Beach, Fla. "We all worked there one time or another," he said.
It was in the late 1960s that Mr. Friant made a lacrosse stick of extruded plastic - the AMISCO Warrior - and an early model is in the National Lacrosse Museum and Hall of Fame on Hopkins' Homewood campus, Mr. Snow said.
These sticks, made by his and other companies, became popular with collegiate, scholastic and youth league players - replacing the traditional wooden stick - and contributed to spreading lacrosse and to higher-scoring games.
A few years later, Mr. Friant began making lacrosse sticks for players as young as 4, beginning with one of his grandchildren, then for friends' grandchildren.
Another idea that became a successful product was a transportable lacrosse goal, which Mr. Friant engineered to meet United Parcel Service size limitations. He called it his "UPS goal," Mr. Snow recalled. While regular goals were one piece of heavy steel, Mr. Friant's version was made of aluminum pipe sections and soon graced practice fields and back yards.
Mr. Friant coached for the Maryland Junior Lacrosse League at Roland Run and at the Heroes' Summer College Lacrosse League in Baltimore, which honored him with its annual coach's award in 1978. He served for about 10 years on the board of directors of the Maryland Lacrosse Club.
Funeral services will be at 1 p.m. tomorrow at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road in Towson.
He was married in 1950 to the former Dorothy E. Treide, who survives him. Other survivors include two daughters, Christine F. Snow of Palm Beach and Catherine F. Cadorette of Baltimore; two sons, E. Stewart Friant III of Owings Mills and Dr. C. Lee Friant of Towson; a brother, John L. Friant of Lancaster, Pa.; a sister, Ann F. Scheck of Towson, and eight grandchildren.
The family suggested donations to the Hospice of Baltimore, 6601 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21204.