LESLIE R., P.E.
96, of Mt. Lebanon, died Monday, November 5, 2012, of pulmonary fibrosis. Born to family of very modest means in Louisville, KY, he was too poor to finish more than one year at the University of Louisville but nevertheless achieved international prominence as an instrument engineer, consultant, author and teacher specializing in control valves and industrial process control systems. Les authored four textbooks and co-authored four others, all on control valves, wrote over 40 published articles, lectured extensively and taught more than 100 short courses in the U.S. and internationally-including Canada, Kuwait, Venezuela, Mexico, Norway, the Netherlands and Japan and developed an equation for the flow of compressible fluids through valves that became an international standard. Les was always determined to get what he went after. At their first meeting he asked to hold Doris Beutel, a friend of the family, but was denied the privilege because she was an infant and he was barely two. They married 19 years later and remained so until her death nearly 75 years later. He once sneaked under the fence at Churchill Downs as a youth to see the Kentucky Derby, and in their last six decades he and Doris never missed watching the race on TV over juleps he made with Kentucky mint. His childhood library consisted of one large, black dictionary, which he read sitting on his front steps. Neighbors, thinking it was the Bible, assumed he was studying to be a priest. He did not sleep in a heated room until he was 14, the same year he entered high school. Les skipped a term, took top honors, and delivered the valedictory address in 1933. Dropping out of the University of Louisville after one year for financial reasons, he worked at various clerical jobs during the Depression and eventually became a technician at Seagram-Calvert Distilleries while also taking correspondence courses in what was then a new field, industrial process control. During the war Les worked for DuPont and was deferred from military service because he was supervising all instrumentation at the corporation's $45 million plant manufacturing synthetic rubber, which was vital for the war effort. He also taught night courses in industrial instrumentation for Purdue University
, sponsored by the U.S. War Training Program. After the war Les moved his family to Pittsburgh and began working for Blaw-Knox Construction on Penn Ave downtown. This eventually became the Chem Plants division of Dravo Corporation. By the Seventies he was heading Dravo's 100-man instrument-electrical engineering department, which evaluated plant hazards, established design criteria for safety, set design pressures and temperatures for process equipment and piping systems, and designed pressure relief and venting systems. In 1979 Les retired from Dravo to begin a 20-year career as consulting engineer. Clients included nearly two dozen engineering corporations in the U.S. and abroad. He frequently served as an expert witness in court cases involving critical control equipment at mills, power plants and chemical plants. Les was fond of the saying that before a man died he ought to plant a tree, write a book and have a son, and he'd done all three. He was proud of his marriage and family, his being self-taught, and winning his age group in local 5K races when he was 80. A fan of old movies, he especially enjoyed The Thin Man series and laughed aloud at Will Rogers films. One of his favorite Rogers quotes was "We are all here for a spell; get all the good laughs you can". Loving father of Sharon L. Oddi of Niantic, CT, Daniel D. Driskell of Mt. Lebanon, and the late Doris Carol Driskell of Louisville, KY; grandfather of five, Mark Oddi of Merritt Island, FL, Bonnie (Speziali), Brian, Sheila and the late John Oddi, all of Niantic, CT; and great-grandfather of two, Albert Speziali and Jessica Oddi. Les was preceded in death by his wife, Doris May in July 2012. The family extends special thanks to all the caregivers and nurses who tended to his needs with love and professionalism day and night over the past several years. Friends will be welcomed at LAUGHLIN MEMORIAL CHAPEL, 222 Washington Rd., Mt. Lebanon, Thursday afternoon, 4 to 8 p.m. Service and interment private.
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