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Published: Sunday, 1/8/2006

Inventor-mechanic never bragged

Lawrence A. Upp, 101, an inventor, mechanic, and tool-and-die maker who perfected an early wet/dry vacuum, died Monday in Harborside of Sylvania, where he had been since May.

The cause of death was unknown, but he had been in declining health for several months, said his daughter Barbara Eriksen, with whom he lived for several years.

He lived independently until he was in his 90s.

Shortly after his 100th birthday, Mr. Upp told The Blade, "Longevity is its own reward."

Mr. Upp, formerly of Lambertville, retired about 1975 from Craft Master Corp. in Toledo - the maker of paint-by-number kits and other hobby and craft products - where he worked for most of his career. As a tool-and-die maker there, he made sure the machinery filled each kit's paint cups with just the right amount of the right colors.

"He never bragged about what he could do," his daughter said. "He would come home and tell how the day went and how he fixed something. He would explain in detail how he fixed the machines that filled the cups."

He held a patent for a squeegee he invented that was part of an early wet/dry vacuum. He formed HurriKleen Co. in the late 1940s to make the machine, but he ran out of money.

"He wasn't a businessman; he was a machinist," his daughter said.

Mr. Upp was born in Lima, Ohio. The family moved to a farm near Edgerton, Ohio, and then settled on a farm near Summerfield and Douglas Roads in Lambertville.

He attended Toledo's vocational high school, then located downtown, and the University of Toledo. He developed a corn harvester, but the stock market crash of 1929 kept his design from being manufactured, family members said.

"He was a whiz at making anything," daughter Nancy Jennings said.

He worked at American Propeller Co. during World War II.

Mr. Upp's chief pastime, especially in retirement, was working in his metal shop on clocks and other mechanical things.

"It was a challenge to him because he would work with minute parts and micrometers. He would be working in thousandths of an inch. He could do it by the hour," daughter Barbara said.

Mr. Upp had a lakeside home near Reading, Mich., for several years, and he liked to fish there and in Lake Erie.

"He had kind of a quick wit," daughter Barbara said. "He wasn't much of a mixer. He didn't like large crowds and wasn't a joiner and didn't belong to any kind of organization. But he enjoyed just sitting down and talking to somebody one-to-one."

Mr. Upp and his wife, Crystal, married Dec. 24, 1924. She died in April, 1967.

Surviving are his daughters, Barbara Eriksen and Nancy Jennings; son, Roger Upp; 15 grandchildren; many great-grandchildren, and a great-great-grandson.

Memorial services will be held at noon next Sunday in the Newcomer Funeral Home, where the family will receive friends after 11 a.m. The family suggests tributes to Heartland Hospice.



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