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Austin J. Webber

June 16, 2017
Shepherdstown Chronicle

Austin J. Webber, 87, of Glendora, California, went to be with the Lord Monday Oct. 3, 2016. He passed away quietly in his sleep at home.

Born Dec. 16, 1928, in Martinsburg, he was the son of the late Franklin Page Webber and Nellie Leopold Webber.

He is survived by his wife, Jean Gray Webber, of 65 years; two sons, Austin J. Webber II, of San Dimas, California and Therin Page Webber and his wife, Angela, of Victorville, California; and three grandchildren, Cody Page Webber, Joshua Austin Webber and Brittney Sky Webber. He is one of 11 children, and is survived by one sister, Geraldine Painter, of Murrysville, Pennsylvania; and three nieces and three nephews, Dr. Susan Painter, Carolyn Schuetz, Oretta La Follette, Donald Webber, Carroll Webber and PJ Webber.

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In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by brothers and sisters, Hazel Null, Robert Webber, Nellie Stillwell, Leon Webber, Maynard Webber, Floyd Webber, Martin Luther Webber and two infant siblings.

Services were held Sunday Oct. 30, 2016, at Loraine Avenue Baptist Church, with Pastor Luff Johnson officiating.

Austin joined the Air Force in January 1951. After basic training, he was sent to Keesler Air Force base in Biloxi, Mississippi to study Loran and Shoran Radar. Out of 37 original airmen, 11 graduated and he was one of the top three of the graduates. Seven out of the 11 graduates were sent to Formosa to train General Chiang Kai-shek's airmen in radar.

Major Persender sent Austin to Harlinger Air Force base to open the base as a training facility for cadets. He not only taught air cadets but career officers who were returning from the Korea war. One of his students was from Martinsburg.

After being discharged, he returned home and returned to Shepherd College to finish his degree in Math and Science. He taught one year at Shepherdstown High School.

After graduation, he began working at Aerojet in Frederick, Maryland. While there, he developed a coating that rendered submarines invisible to enemy sonar and radar. All contracts, at that time, had to be approved by Admiral Rickover, head of the Navy Department at the Pentagon. Austin presented his proposal. The project was approved and he began work on the "Underwater Sound Project." Soon after, work began. Aerojet sent all research and development to its plant in Azusa, California. He was not interested in leading Aerojet in Frederick. His two sons were in school and his wife was teaching fourth grade at Walkersville Elementary School. After much prodding to move to Azusa, California, to finish work on "The Underwater Sound Project," all research and development was soon fazed out. In appreciation for developing the coating, he was gifted with the patent.

After research was sent to Azusa, Aerojet began working in automation. Austin worked on automation of the Grand Central Station and International Shoe in St. Louis, Missouri, then moved to California.

After leaving Aerojet, he was offered a position at Rockwell International. It was at one of the meetings that he met Dr. Warner Von Braun. There were many meetings and discussions and Austin was involved in all meetings. Dr. Helmet Burgler, an engineer who came to America with Dr. Von Braun, usually traveled to Rockwell for most of the meetings and Austin was very involved.

His next project was working on the scale of the shuttle. Dr. Jacobson, vice president, called Austin into his office telling him that they had received the best project they had ever received "The Space Shuttle Scale" program. Austin became the technical director and responsible test engineer. Some of his responsibilities to the scale program were to design and fabricate the model support fixtures, the suspension system and supervise the model assembly into the test fixtures. Austin was critical in the success of the scale government program. Dr. Ted Miller stated about Austin "His mind works like a puzzle, the parts always fit." Owen G. Morris (1978)- manager of Space Integration Space Shuttle Program also stated "It is my opinion that Mr. Webber was a critical personnel in the success of the Scale Government Program.

A military service was held at Oakdale Memorial Park, where 10 honor guards presented a short program. The chaplin gave a short message and the captain folded the flag and presented it to Mrs. Webber as the song "Winds Beneath My Wings" was played. Brittney, Austin's granddaughter, released a dozen white doves into heaven.

"Where the white dove flies, I am free today. The Holy Spirit guides me on my victory flight, the reverence that I feel is beyond belief. The white dove had brought me to the Saviors' feet. There is no more pain to bare, no more tears to cry. I'm finally "Home" in heaven, where the white doves fly."

We love you Dad.

 
 
 

 

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