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Published: Sunday, 6/19/2011

George Schlaudecker, 1917-2011: Chemical engineer was strong advocate of Catholic education

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

George Schlaudecker, 94, a chemical engineer and entrepreneur who co-founded a specialty chemicals business in East Toledo to develop and manufacture saccharin and a larvicide to kill lamprey eels, died Tuesday at Kingston of Sylvania.

The cause of death was congestive heart failure, son David Schlaudecker said.

Mr. Schlaudecker, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, began working for DuPont in Delaware but left after World War II to move to Toledo to design a plant for chemical manufacturing.

In 1946, he struck out on his own and co-founded Maumee Chemical on Westwood Avenue across from the University of Toledo.

Mr. Schlaudecker was born on Feb. 10, 1917, in Erie, Pa., to Herbert and Eleanor Franz Schlaudecker.

He earned top honors while in high school and college and kept his competitive drive all through life, his son said.

“He was so goal-oriented and a hard-charging businessman,” his son said.

He was a fierce competitor in leisure, even in his 80s and 90s when playing board games.

“No one would sit [next to] him because he was so competitive. He just won all the time,” the younger Mr. Schlaudecker said.

Mr. Schlaudecker, his brother-in-law Francis Joyce, and Oliver Senn founded Maumee Development Co., later named Maumee Chemical Co., to focus on developing and manufacturing specialty low-volume chemicals.

“They understood the need for a real mix of products,” the younger Mr. Schlaudecker said.

During the company’s infancy, Mr. Schlaudecker, Mr. Senn, and another principal in the company, Clyde Balch, taught physics at UT.

In 1951, the small firm leased the former Koerber Brewery on Oak Street in East Toledo to expand its manufacturing capabilities. That site was destroyed by an explosion in 1962 that killed 10 people.

After the explosion, Maumee Chemical moved manufacturing to a Cincinnati suburb but kept its research and corporate offices in Toledo.

Mr. Schlaudecker and Mr. Senn began working on the artificial sweetener in 1949 and by 1951 began commercial production.

“Dr. Senn would develop the chemistry to take the bitterness out and Dad developed the technology,” his son said.

Maumee Chemical developed a poison that killed the lamprey eel, which threatened Great Lakes fish with extinction because the eel bores into the flesh of fish with its small, sharp teeth. The poison was harmless to fish, and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife became Maumee Chemical’s prime customer.

“It was a good product for them, but it was not hugely profitable,” his son said.

David Schlaudecker recalled that his father often took his work home with him.

“I grew up with jars of lamprey eels on top of our refrigerator,” he said.

Mr. Schlaudecker could be counted on to come home with his clothes smelling of strange chemicals the firm was developing, his son said.

In 1959 he was awarded a patent for tetraethyl lead, an additive once used in gasoline to boost octane and eliminate premature detonation.

Mr. Schlaudecker, seeing a need to expand the business but not having the deep pockets necessary, sold Maumee Chemical to Sherwin Williams Co. and moved to Cleveland in 1966.

He was a member of its board of directors and was group vice president of its chemical division until 1978.

His wife, Marion Sheehan, whom he married in 1940, died in 1978.

He returned to Toledo in 1980 and married Betty Rumpf, a fellow entrepreneur who owned an interior decorating firm, David Schlaudecker said. She had three sons.

“When Dad and Betty got married, her boys became his boys and vice versa,” he said of the blended family. “He really understood the value of family.”

Mr. Schlaudecker was a strong advocate of a Catholic education and established scholarships to assist students from poor families to attend St. Francis de Sales High School.

Mr. Schlaudecker, along with others, helped found St. Francis. The closing of St. John’s High School had left Toledo without a Catholic high school for boys.

He was active in the Central City Ministries, and 15 years ago, through that organization he and his wife Betty began providing scholarships to impoverished students, most from the central city.

The scholarships allowed those students to attend a Catholic school from kindergarten through high school, his son said.

“The goal is to [give] inner city students the opportunity for Catholic education,” the younger Mr. Schlaudecker said.

Mr. Schlaudecker is survived by his wife, Betty, sons, Bill and David, three grandchildren, three stepsons, 11 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Walker Funeral Home. A memorial Mass is to be celebrated at 11 a.m. Monday at Corpus Christi University Parish Church.

Memorials are suggested to the Schlaudecker Scholarship Fund at St. Francis de Sales High School or Central Cities Ministries of Toledo.

Contact Jim Sielicki at: jsielicki@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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