STONY BROOK, N.Y.—Clarence A. ``Bob'' Ball, a 60-year veteran of the retreading industry and the author of more than 200 columns on retreading published by TIRE BUSINESS, died Jan. 15 in a Port Jefferson, N.Y., hospital after a brief illness. He was 81. Known to many as ``Bob,'' he received the ``Industry Pioneer Award'' from the International Tire and Rubber Association (formerly the American Retreaders Association) in 1984 for his work decades earlier helping U.S. retreaders adapt to then-new steel-belted radials in a day when technical information was still scarce and existing equipment not well-suited to such tires.
Mr. Ball's wife, Barbara, said that during childhood, his father called him ``Bub.'' However, young friends mistook ``Bub'' for ``Bob'' and the latter nickname followed him through life. The couple made their home in Stony Brook, Long Island.
He began his retreading career in 1937, working as an employee of the former Super Mold Corp. in Camden, N.J., rebuilding used and damaged mold equipment and shipping replacement parts.
Two years later, he went into business for himself, opening Custom Tire Co. in a single-car garage in Oaklyn, N.J. Initially, the shop consisted of one Lodi F-1 passenger tire mold and a used buffer. But the operation grew throughout the 1940s and '50s, largely due to its reputation for quality.
After World War II, the company began to sell new tires as well as retreads, becoming one of the first Michelin dealerships in the eastern U.S. And because technical information on how to retread and repair the French-made radials was sketchy at best, Mr. Ball soon developed his own rules and specifications.
The operation closed in December 1961 when Mr. Ball was hired by Michelin Tire Corp. to become a retreading technician. Working for the French tire maker's North American subsidiary, he traveled extensively throughout the U.S., instructing shop personnel on the proper retreading and repairing of steel-cord radials.
He later developed the first comprehensive instruction manual for domestic use, which thoroughly described the methods and equipment necessary for retreading such tires. Although updated several times in years since, the manual is still used today.
In 1968, he became the company's first manager of retreading engineering in the U.S., training and supervising a field staff of technicians and advising manufacturers of retreading equipment.
His later years with Michelin were spent as assistant director of the training department, responsible for teaching company personnel, independent dealers and customers the ins and outs of tire maintenance, tire failure analysis, retreading and repairing.
He retired from Michelin in 1985 and periodically served as an expert witness in court cases requiring retread and tire repair failure analysis.
That same year he began writing a column on retreading and tire repair for TIRE BUSINESS. He frequently wrote of the need for upgrading the quality and professionalism of retreading and tire repair and was vocal about the unreliable and dangerous practice of outside-in puncture repairing.
Other survivors include three children, two step-children, 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Memorials may be made to the JTM Foundation, c/o John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, 75 N. Country Road, Port Jefferson, N.Y. 11777.