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Lawrence V. Pfaender 1927-2013

O-I inventor led its spinoff specialty unit

Lawrence V. Pfaender, who after a career of glass innovation at Owens-Illinois Inc. led his own specialty glass business, died Monday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township. He was 86.

He died of respiratory failure, a complication of lymphoma, his son-in-law, Phil Ullom, said.

Mr. Pfaender of Sylvania Township was chairman and chief executive of SEM-COM Co. Inc. from its founding in the 1980s until 2003, when his son Michael took over, Mr. Ullom said.

Mr. Pfaender remained a consultant with the firm.

“He still had tremendous contacts in the industry and tremendous knowledge,” Mr. Ullom said.

Mr. Pfaender worked at O-I from the early 1950s until the early 1980s and held patents in fiber optics, laser glass, film glass, and optical glass, among other areas. He eventually led an O-I special projects division.

“He believed his job was to develop people to have better jobs than him. He never took the full recognition. He gave that to people who worked for him,” said Ted LeSueur, who worked for Mr. Pfaender.

Flat panel plasma display and night vision devices were outgrowths of projects at O-I, Mr. Ullom said.

“He was one of those guys who was mechanically oriented and brilliant beyond discussion,” Mr. Ullom said. “He had a sense of stuff wider and deeper than most people do.”

Mr. Pfaender planned in retirement to slow his pace. Instead, O-I — seeking to reduce its holdings — offered him the specialty glass unit at an attractive price, plus office and plant space; top-line glass melting equipment, and a database.

The outgrowth, SEM-COM, worked closely with customers to develop products with glass and ceramic materials that might have applications in electronics and industry.

“We advertise very little,” Mr. Pfaender told The Blade in 1992. “Word of mouth and satisfied customers seem to bring more business our way.”

When he stood at the annual Christmas party and recounted the year just past, “he did this with a humble grace that made everybody in the room feel like a king,” Mr. Ullom said. “He had a zest for life and a sense of adventure. You felt better when you were around him.”

He was born Jan. 13, 1927, to Ada and Vernon Pfaender. He was a 1944 graduate of Ottawa Hills High School.

Mr. Pfaender was a machinist mate third class in the Navy aboard the USS Severn and took part in the World War II Pacific Theater battles at Leyte Gulf and Okinawa.

He attended Western Reserve University and the University of Michigan. He had a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Toledo.

Surviving are his wife, Donna, whom he married June 24, 1950; sons, Michael and James; daughters, Amie Dennis, Lynn Pfaender, and Beth Ullom; four grandchildren, and a great-grandson.

Visitation is 4-8 p.m. Thursday in the Reeb Funeral Home, Sylvania, with Scripture services at 7:30 p.m. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Friday in St. Joseph Church, Sylvania, where he was a member.

The family suggests tributes to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

— Mark Zaborney

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