Benjamin Franklin Perry, Test Engineer

August 05, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen

Benjamin Franklin Perry, a retired Black & Decker Corp. test engineer who assisted in the development of the drill that was carried by the astronauts aboard the Apollo 11 moon mission, died of heart failure July 29 at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. He was 87.

Mr. Perry, the son of a Pennsylvania Railroad tower operator and a homemaker, was born and raised in an Ashland, Baltimore County, rowhouse.

"It was called Stone Row, and there were no indoor plumbing facilities or electricity," said his son, Michael S. Perry of Phoenix, Baltimore County.

After graduating from Towson High School in 1939, he went to work at Black & Decker in Towson in the company's winding department. He enlisted in the Army in 1945, and served as a radio operator at Fort Sill, Okla., and Camp Hood, Texas, before being discharged in 1946.

Mr. Perry returned to Black & Decker, and after taking correspondence and night school courses, he was promoted to the company's test engineering department in Towson.

"He was known as 'Mr. Test,' because of his work developing the drop test. He figured if you spent good money for a power tool, it should still work, even if it had been dropped off the workbench several times," his son said. "This helped greatly improve quality and reliability."

Mr. Perry joined with NASA engineers in developing the moon drill that was aboard the historic Apollo 11 flight to the moon in 1969.

Mr. Perry ended his 41-year career with the company as a manager in its professional tools quality control division at its Hampstead plant, in 1981.

He was an avid gardener.

Mr. Perry was a longtime member of Ashland Presbyterian Church, 116 Ashland Road, Cockeysville, where services were held Monday.

Also surviving are his wife of 64 years, the former Audrey Elizabeth Becker; a brother, John E. Perry of Hampstead; four sisters, Bessie A. Beaver of Woodbine, Linda D. Valentine of Phoenix, Baltimore County, Reba "Pauline" Ridgely of Ocean Pines and Eva "Naomi" Woody of Louisville, Ky.; and three grandchildren.

- Frederick N. Rasmussen

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