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Published: Wednesday, 3/26/2014

William E. Fillmore [1914-2014]; O-I engineer honored as a pioneer of plastic


William E. Fillmore, a noted plastics engineer with Owens-Illinois Inc. whose career spanned seven decades, died March 7 at San Clemente Villas, a retirement community in California. He was 99.

He had an apparent heart attack, his daughter, Julie, said.

A longtime West Toledo resident, he moved to California in 1999, then moved to assisted living in 2012 after he fell and broke a hip. He still got around with a walker.

“He finally retired, for real retired, when he was 84,” his daughter said.

The company sought his expertise, said Jim Morton, his attorney, whose clientele has included O-I executives.

“He was very important to the company,” Mr. Morton said. “They kept bringing him back as employee and consultant. He was indispensable.”

O-I hired him in 1937, a mechanical engineer fresh from Ohio State University, “in the early days of plastics,” his daughter said. “He grew in the industry.”

Product by product, Mr. Fillmore called on his training and creativity while developing a container that ultrafine baby powder wouldn’t sift through; a rolling applicator for liquid deodorant; an integrated handle for a plastic bleach bottle, and a dual-pump toothpaste tube.

He worked on childproof caps, “which, of course, my friends and I all gave him hell for,” his daughter said. “We understood the concept but, ‘Dad, we can’t get these things open!’

“Presented with a challenge, he could come up with a solution,” his daughter said. “He loved that. He said to me, ‘I was so lucky, because I did something I loved to do.’ ”

In 2006, Ohio State’s college of engineering recognized him as a pioneer of plastic and polymer engineering and awarded him the Benjamin G. Lamme Meritorious Achievement Medal.

He was born Dec. 13, 1914, in Zanesville, Ohio, to Mary and Robert Fillmore, and grew up in Columbus. He was a graduate of North High School. He received his mechanical engineering degree in 1936.

In retirement, he was a member of the Orange County Ohio State alumni club and remained a follower of Ohio State football. Until last season, he went to game-day gatherings that sometimes drew several hundred fans eager to watch the Buckeyes.

A Navy veteran of World War II, Mr. Fillmore was an ordnance officer stationed on Saipan.

He was a Mason and was a member of Northern Light Lodge, F&AM.

He married the former Jean Strater on March 20, 1943. She died April 4, 1975.

Surviving are his daughter, Julie Miner; son, Jim Fillmore, and two grandsons.

Memorial services are pending. The family suggests tributes to the William Edgerton Fillmore Fund for Excellence in Mechanical Engineering at Ohio State.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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