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Inventor and founder of Hagerstown-based Action Products Inc. dead at 97

Wilbur "Dr. Mac" McElroy holds 16 patents

August 25, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com
  • In this 2008 file photo, Wilbur "Dr. Mac" McElroy, Action Products founder and chairman of the board, stands inside the production area of his Hagerstown plant. McElroy died Wednesday at the age of 97.
Herald-Mail file photo

Prominent inventor and founder of Hagerstown-based Action Products Inc., Wilbur "Dr. Mac" McElroy died Wednesday at age 97.

Known for inventing a polymer called Akton — a soft gel-like synthetic substance used as a shock absorber in cushions — McElroy holds 16 patents, mostly for his work in polyurethanes, according to his obituary.

Akton was the key to Action Products' success, and its formula was kept secret and never patented because he never wanted to disclose publicly what was in it, McElroy told the Herald-Mail in 2008.

None of his competitors have ever been able to duplicate the trade secret of Akton, according to his obituary.

McElroy invented the substance in the basement of his two-story home in Olean, N.Y., in 1969 in an effort to create a better wheelchair padding for immobilized patients, the Herald-Mail reported.

In 1970, McElroy learned that the Veterans Administration was launching a study to find the best pad for wheelchairs, which Akton won. With that came a contract to supply pads to veterans hospitals across the nation, the newspaper reported.

McElroy moved Action Products to Hagerstown in the late 1970s,  at one point operating multiple locations in the area, his obituary said.

It now operates in the Hagerstown Business Park off Burhans Boulevard.

Even in his 90s, McElroy was still involved in his company as its chairman of the board, the Herald-Mail reported.

Action Products continues to cater to the health care industry, boasting more than 150 products, according to its website, www.actionproducts.com.

In addition to its health care products, the shock-absorbing Akton polymer is used in sports like soccer, hockey, baseball and football, space ships, gun-recoil pads for hunters and law enforcement, gloves for jackhammer users, padding for racecar drivers and pads for horses to prevent tissue trauma, the website said.

McElroy was born north of Hagerstown in Fayetteville, Pa, according to his obituary.

He graduated from Chambersburg (Pa.) High School and went on to attend Gettysburg College, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Penn State University and Purdue University, where he earned his doctorate degree in chemistry.

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