Walter Earl Ditmars, Jr. died on July 21, 2013 in Dublin, Ohio. He was 90 and lived 22 of those years in Riverdale, according to his son David Ditmars.
Mr. Ditmars was born on June 6, 1923 in Boston, MA, son of Major Walter E. Ditmars and Jennie Ann Johnson of 4904 Independence Ave., opposite Wave Hill, in Riverdale.
Mr. Ditmars attended Fieldston School, Horace Mann School, Culver Military Academy and Harvard, where he played cornet in and managed Harvard’s Gold Coast Dance Orchestra and Rhythm Ramblers Swing Band. During World War II, M.I.T. hired Walt to develop rocket technology for the War Department. He earned an M.S. in chemistry at University of Connecticut.
In 1950, Mr. Ditmar joined Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, where he invented a dry-cell battery and earned a doctorate in surface chemistry at Ohio State University, where he invented a method for purifying chlorophyll for federal government photosynthesis research. Walt retired a senior editor and consultant for Chemical Abstracts Service, where he specialized in quantum mechanics and statistical thermodynamics.
Mr. Ditmars’ family enjoys a long and rich history with New York City.
A 13th generation American, one of Walt’s immigrant grandfathers received a land grant from Peter Stuyvesant in 1647 at Dutch Kills, Astoria, NY. Four ancestral grandfathers fought as officers and riflemen in General Washington’s Continental Army.
In 1926, Major Ditmars founded Carbice Corporation of America, the first manufacturer of dry ice with August Heckscher and Irene du Pont. He managed the Wall Street brokerage Fenner & Beane, investing with William C. Durant before assuming presidency of Gray Manufacturing Company, manufacturer of Paystation telephones and Audiograph recording machines.
Mr. Ditmars’ great-grandfather, Isaac Gale Johnson, founded I. G. Johnson Iron Works and Rolling Steel Mills in 1850 in Spuyten Duyvil, where he manufactured railroad and automobile components and cannons and ammunition. At end of the Civil War, the Navy named its first torpedo ship U.S.S. Spuyten Duyvil in recognition of Isaac’s contribution to innovation of Naval armor and artillery.
In April 1865 the U.S.S. Spuyten Duyvil carried President Lincoln up the James River to Richmond after the Confederacy’s surrender. Later Isaac invented an armor-piercing exploding artillery shell for the War Department that gave Allied Naval Forces great advantage during World War I. He built Spuyten Duyvil’s Edgehill Church for hundreds Irish immigrants who found jobs in his foundries and mills. His sons later donated land to create Henry Hudson Park.
Mr. Ditmars married Eva DeMars, daughter of Connecticut real estate developer Aimee DeMars in West Hartford, CT, in 1948. The two met when he was a graduate student at the University of Connecticut the previous year. Mrs. Ditmars died in 2009 at the age of 84 in Upper Arlington, OH. The couple was married 61 years and raised four children.
Mr. Ditmars loved art, jazz and classical music and poetry. He was a member of American Chemical Society, Sierra Club, and United Methodist Church.
One daughter, Anne Stevens, and sons David, Jon and Robert Ditmars, who all currently reside in Columbus, OH, survive Mr. Ditmars.
Donations in Mr. Ditmar’s memory for a cure for osteoarthritis are invited to Trudeau Institute, 154 Algonquin Ave., Saranac Lake, NY 12983, (518) 891-3080, www.trudeauinstitute.org.