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John Robert Pownall

1916 - 2013
John Robert Pownall, patriarch, problem-solver, tinkerer, builder, prankster and traveler, passed away April 5, 2013. He was 97.
John was born and raised in Rochester, New York, where he met his future wife, Billie. He discovered his love of chemistry while working in Rochester at Eastman Kodak, and pursued his passion at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. With a chemical engineering degree, he came west to Long Beach in 1940, where he began working for the Union Oil Company of California, a small firm dedicated to research. Billie joined him in 1941, and they were married.
At Union Oil, John developed a successful and safe shale oil refining process for the Department of Defense (a project that required him and his family to move to western Colorado for two years). He was also responsible for building an entire refinery outside of Chicago.
After his retirement, he shepherded the complete retrofit of the First Congregational Church of Long Beach, implementing a unique solution to prevent First Church's demolition.
He loved camping and traveling with his family, and his building and woodworking projects have graced the homes of many family members. He was an avid golfer, a student of history and a voracious reader. He enjoyed the dry humor of Rumpole of the Bailey and Fawlty Towers. He was a conniving concealer of Easter Eggs, which were often not found until Labor Day.
He is survived by his wife Billie, daughter Judy (Karinen), son Gordon, granddaughter Jenny (Karinen), grandsons Adam, Scott, and Rendon, and great-grandchildren Erin and Evan. His family will miss his wit, wisdom, insight, and unwavering support.
His life will be celebrated Saturday, May 18th, at 11 am at the First Congregational Church of Long Beach, 241 Cedar Ave, Long Beach, CA, 90802. (562) 436-2256.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to First Congregational Church of Long Beach or Habitat for Humanity (habitatla.org).

Published in the Los Angeles Times on May 12, 2013
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