2006-03-22 / Obituaries

William Edward Neff, worked for DuPont Co., Manhattan Project

William Edward Neff, 94, of Stonegates retirement community in Greenville, Del., formerly of Williamsville, died Monday, March 13, 2006, after a short illness.

Born in Glen Elder, Kan., he moved to Buffalo in 1917. Mr. Neff attended the old stone school on Cayuga St. and graduated from Williamsville High School. He won a competitive tuition scholarship to Cornell University and entered the College of Engineering in 1929.

In 1933, Mr. Neff graduated from Cornell University with a degree in mechanical engineering. He was a member of the social fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon and the scholastic honor societies, Tau Beta Pi and Phi Kappa Pi. He joined the DuPont Company in Buffalo as a student operator. Later, while doing rayon research in the mid-1930s, he developed an improved process for the production of a novel yarn that was used extensively in the high-fashion dress industry. Immediately after Pearl Harbor he was transferred to Remington Arms in Bridgeport, Conn., a DuPont subsidiary making ammunition for the British.

He married Judith Kenyon Mitchell of Bridgeport in 1943 and three months later, was loaned from the DuPont Co. to the Manhattan Project, with assignments at the University of Chicago, where he participated in the testing of the first atomic pile in the squash courts; Oak Ridge, Tenn; and the Hanford Engineering Works near Richland, Wash.

Upon returning to DuPont after the war, he was transferred for four years to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he served as technical superintendent and later as works manager of Ducilo, S.A., a DuPont subsidiary that manufactured rayon, cellophane, and nylon.

Upon returning to the United States in 1953 and after assignments in Clinton, Iowa and Old Hickory, Tenn., he was appointed division engineer of the film department in 1956 in Wilmington. He retired in 1976 after 43 years of service.

Mr. Neff was active as a board member of United Way of Delaware and as a member of the Arthritis Foundation and was a 25-year board member and president of Gilpin Hall (formerly Home for Aged Women). He was a long-time member of Westminster Presbyterian Church, a member of DuPont Country Club, and a charter member and president of Greenville Country Club. He was an avid sailor and played duplicate contract bridge.

Mr. Neff is survived by his wife of 63 years, Judith; two sons, William E. of Wilmington and Kennedyville, Md. and Wheeler K. of Wilmington; a daughter, Justine Hawley of Fairfield, Conn.; and nine grandchildren.

A memorial service was held Friday, March 17 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, Del.

Arrangements were made by Chandler Funeral Homes & Crematory.

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