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Obituary: Nelson Jonnes '52

Nelson Jonnes, age 85, of Stillwater, Minn., passed away Nov. 7, 2011. Nels was born in Circleville, the son of Dr. Lloyd and Barbara (Lukemire) Jonnes, grandson of Dr. Howard Jones and great-grandson of Dr. Nelson E. Jones, all of Circleville.

He is survived by wife, Beverly; son, Steven of Alexandria, Va.; daughter, Heidi Syropoulos of Philadelphia, Pa.; son, Christopher of Stillwater; daughter, Sara of Cleveland Heights; 11 grandchildren; one great-grandson; and brother, Lloyd of Washington, D.C. He entered Corwin Street School in 1932, graduated from Circleville High School in 1944, and immediately enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served four years, partly as sonar operator on a patrol craft (PC-620) in the Pacific, and partly teaching at the Fleet Sonar School in Key West. Upon discharge from the Navy in 1947, he entered Antioch College on the GI Bill, graduated in 1952. At Antioch, he majored in pre-medicine, taking a variety of science courses, later switched to education with the intention of being a high school science teacher. At Antioch, he met and married Beverly Bonn of Montevideo, Minn. He graduated in 1952 with a B.A. in Education and Physics. His first job was teaching science at the Menelik II Secondary School, Addis Ababa, Ethiopa. After one year, he went on to teach chemistry at the newly created College of Engineering. On their return to the U.S., Nels took a temporary job with 3M Company in St. Paul, Minn., intending to return to Ethiopia to start a copper mine with an Italian prospector friend. The copper business did not pan out, so he continued as a technician in the Reflective Products Division making Scotchlite and other retroreflective materials and devices. At 3M he discovered that he had a talent for technical innovation and used that effectively to advance in the ranks of the scientifically trained there. He worked a total of 18 years for 3M - interrupted by one period of five years working as a toy developer at Fischer-Price Toys in East Aurora, N.Y. He gave 3M 15 U.S. patents and a variety of new products, including the reflective tire product seen today on bicycles in the Netherlands and Belgium and on many sports shoes. While at 3M, he acquired an enviable education in materials chemistry and technological techniques. Through these years, he played flute with several music groups, including the Springfield Symphony Orchestra of Springfield, N.Y. In 1973, discontented with his status at 3M, he started his own enterprise, American Polywater Corporation, in the basement of his home in Stillwater, Minn. This grew over the years to be the worldÆs leader in cable installation products and technology - a small but profitable niche market. All the products during the first ten years were NelsÆs inventions, eight of which were patented. In 1988, Nels sold out to son Christopher and longtime partner, John Fee, to take up a life of leisure, spending winters in Savannah, Ga., and summers in Minnesota. After a few years of this, he became bored and went back to work for American Polywater as an independent consultant, working to create and develop novel products, an activity he continued until 2006. He was working then on his 22nd patent, an invert emulsion lubricant for railroad tracks. Nels frequently joked that he was a professional malcontent and that the only way he could make a living was by doing things differently. His autobiography, Autobiography of a Minor Inventor, may be seen in the library of the Pickaway County Historical Society. A memorial service will be held at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, at Bradshaw Celebration of Life Center, 2800 Curve Crest Boulevard, Stillwater, Minn. Family will receive friends following the service