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Researcher took wood, made it better

Stephen Huba
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Joseph E. Ayers, 79, of Scottdale.

As an undergraduate student at West Virginia University, Joseph Ayres got in on the ground floor of a technology that increased the durability and uses of wood.

Mr. Ayres was involved with research efforts in the early 1960s that developed wood-plastic combinations using gamma irradiation techniques.

“It had never been done before,” daughter Sheila Myers said.

The process was described in a 1965 Popular Mechanics article titled “Wonderful World of Irradiated Miracles,” which referenced the pioneering work of WVU professors and students.

“The irradiated composites have amazing qualities. Depending on the kind of wood used, they are up to 900 percent harder than untreated stock,” the article said.

Joseph E. Ayres of Scottdale died Monday, Feb. 4, 2019, at his residence. He was 79.

Born in Oak Hill, W.Va., on March 19, 1939, he was a son of the late Joseph E. and Helen Louise (Hill) Ayres. He attended Collins High School, where he captained the football and basketball teams.

He graduated from WVU with a degree in forestry and from North Carolina State University with a master’s degree in wood technology.

He worked in his field for a number of companies, including U.S. Gypsum; Masonite, where he helped develop a patent as a research development engineer; and Woodcore, his daughter said.

He retired at age 70 after working as a plant manager for 30 years at Whibco in West Elizabeth. The company kept him on as a consultant until recently, Sheila Myers said.

“They called him a couple days before he passed away,” she said.

Mr. Ayres and his wife, Lola, met through a mutual friend and were married for 53 years. They lived in Scottdale for 33 years and raised three daughters.

“He had a lot of determination. Everything he did, he did it right. He always did the right thing,” his wife said.

When he wasn’t working, Mr. Ayres enjoyed seat caning, weaving, working with wood and refinishing furniture. He enjoyed working with Collections by Marty and other local businesses.

He also was an avid WVU fan and enjoyed camping, hiking and working around the house, his wife said.

Mr. Ayres was preceded in death by his brother, James, in 1964.

He is survived by his wife, Lola Ann (Cain) Ayres; three daughters, Pam Ayres-McCue and her husband, Kevin, of Jacksonville, Fla., Sheila Myers and her husband, Rich, of Greensburg, and Margaret “Maggie” Domasky, of Scottdale; and seven grandchildren.

Friends may call from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, and from 10-11 a.m. Tuesday, at the Robert B. Ferguson Funeral Home, 105 Spring St., Scottdale, where funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Graveside committal service and interment will follow in Scottdale Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to www.nationalforests.org .

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter @shuba_trib.