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Published: Tuesday, 7/18/2006

Inventor made safes, file cabinets better

Ralph Ellsworth McClellan, 93, a master lock manipulator who retired from the former Meilink Steel Safe Co., where he was credited as an inventor with 20 patents, died Saturday in the Elizabeth Scott House, a nursing home in Maumee.

He died from complications from a blood disorder and a number of other ailments, family members said.

Mr. McClellan was the chief engineer at Meilink when he retired after 48 years of inventing secure file cabinets and safes that were used by private companies and the military.

"He was an engineer and did everything with precision," his son, David, recalled.

The son of a machinist, Mr. McClellan took after his father because "he admired the ability to be creative and build things," his son said.

Born in Fostoria, he lived in Monroe before his family settled in Toledo, where he attended the former Woodward Vocational Technical High School.

He married the former Virginia Ichrist on Sept. 5, 1936, and the couple settled in Toledo before he enlisted in the Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor. She died in 1987.

His son said Mr. McClellan was injured shortly after enlisting in the Army and was never stationed abroad. Instead, he served with an engineering battalion before he was honorably discharged.

After his military service, Mr. McClellan took a factory job with Meilink and attended night school at the University of Toledo, receiving his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in 1952. Over the years, he rose through Meilink's ranks as he began inventing fire-resistant file cabinets and safes, many of which were used by the military during the Vietnam War, his son said.

"He was very good at what he did. He could open any safe or lock without knowing the combination," his son said.

A longtime Scout who served as a Cub scoutmaster, Boy Scout troop leader, and baseball coach at Nathan Hale Elementary School, "he was a hard person to get to know. But once you earned his trust, he would give you the shirt off his back," his son said.

Surviving are his son, David; sister, Edna Laird; three grandsons, and five great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. today in the Ansberg-West Funeral Home, where services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow. The family suggests tributes to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio or American Red Cross.



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