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JAY EITEL Obituary
Jay M. Eitel August 12, 1916 - June 10, 2012 Jay Eitel, resident of Palo Alto, son of Clara and William Eitel, was born in San Jose, California. Jay's grandparents were early Santa Clara Valley settlers who traveled to California in covered wagons during the late 1880's. In the days before his death, he commented on what a wonderful and full life he had lived. When his brother, Bill Eitel, started the Eitel-McCullough Company, Jay was instrumental in designing and building the tooling and mechanical equipment necessary to produce shortwave communications as well as radar tubes used by the U.S. Military. This company, known as EIMAC, was a forerunner of the industry that led to the Peninsula being known as the electronic capital of the world, Silicon Valley. Jay's maternal uncle, Col. E.J. Hall who was born in San Jose, was the co-founder of the Hall-Scott aviation engine company in the early 1900's in West Berkeley and San Francisco. He also was the designer of the famous "Liberty" engine used by the Americans and their Allies in World War I. By Armistice Day, 1918, a total of 56,100 were produced. In 1944, Jay spent a tedious summer day picking cherries. After a frustrating day of positioning and repositioning the ladder, the inefficiency of this chore led him to design a device he called the "cherry picker". On evenings and weekends he built a highly maneuverable, telescoping, steel structure mounted on a truck chassis with a simple one-lever control. When World War II ended, he started his own company known as the Telsta Corporation. The innovative man-carrying bucket-lift became the familiar "cherry picker" used by the Bell Telephone Company and many other utilities in a great variety of applications. The Telsta aerial lift is still in use. Jay's design initiated direct placement of telephone cable from a moving truck. This productive method was a major contributor to building the Telecom network of today. His "Lamplighter" lift allowed the operator to step from the driver's seat to the lift platform, then safely elevate for street light maintenance. In the course of developing these industry-changing devices, Jay claimed 65 patents. Jay sold Telsta to the General Cable Corporation in 1965, but participated actively in the company until 1976. In retirement he directed his attention back to his early love of midget racecars and custom-made automobiles. These all-consuming activities were interrupted in 1971 by a request from the World Bank to consult on manufacturing problems in South Korea. He returned a year later to further assist the Korean Government in solving problems in their automotive development. Back home, Jay custom-built two of the most unusual automobiles ever seen. He took a humble Chevrolet Corvair and grafted a massive Jaguar V-12 engine in the nose of this normally rear-engine car. He used a flexible Pontiac Tempest drive shaft to power a trans-axle and transmission in the rear of the car. All the suspension components were crafted by him, as well as the rear-mounted radiator and fan. Despite this radical transformation, the car looked and sounded like a factory-fresh Corvair. His last creation was a 1937 Ford Special designed in 3/5th scale. He started the construction just after World War II and completed it only last year. The fuel-injected Ford "60" engine is supercharged with mass airflow control. This sleek roadster has already commanded critical acclaim and awards. This beautiful roadster will be on display at the Palo Alto Concours d'Elegance, June 24, at Stanford, California. Jay is survived by his devoted wife of 48 years, Esther Eitel of Palo Alto, his son John and many nieces and nephews. He leaves behind a long legacy of innovation and service with his remarkable inventions. Remembrance donations may be made to the Universal Technical Foundation, 16220 N. Scottsdale Rd., Ste 100 Scottsdale, AZ 85254 or the Society of Automotive Engineers, 400 Commonwealth Drive, Warrendale, Pa, 15096. A private memorial service will be held at a later date.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on June 17, 2012
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