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Chemical engineer Reuel Shinnar dies at 87

Reuel Shinnar, one of the country's most respected chemical engineers, who held 16 patents and was committed to developing alternative energy sources to fossil fuel, died Aug. 19. He was 87.

Shinnar, a distinguished professor emeritus of chemical engineering at the Grove School of Engineering at The City College of New York, had been a resident of Great Neck for more than 25 years.

His family said he died of pulmonary disease at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan.

"He was a very modest and unassuming man despite all his accomplishments," said William Helmreich, a professor of sociology of the CUNY Graduate School and The City College of New York and a close friend.

Helmreich said Shinnar was among the "top five chemical engineers in the country" and was professionally dedicated to reducing America's dependence on oil.

Shinnar's family saw him as a loving husband and patriarch who strongly believed in marriage. He also was so clumsy with his hands that his second wife, Mildred Green Shinnar, wouldn't let him near the kitchen.

She agreed with Helmreich that her husband was a bit absent-minded. "But only about things that did not matter to him," she said. "If he were interested in something he could formulate all kinds of plans and schemes."

According to the university, Shinnar published more than 100 papers and was a consultant to energy companies almost until the day he died.

Shinnar, who as a boy left Nazi-occupied Austria with two sisters, was a founder of the Israeli munitions industry, his wife and the university said. After World War II, he fought for Israel's independence and aided in the country's military defense.

His wife said Shinnar laughed at his own clumsiness, which was well known among his defense colleagues in Israel.

As a senior engineer he managed a series of munitions plants in Israel, she said. "When he would inspect these plants it was known throughout the network he must always be accompanied by two others when entering a laboratory," she said. "That was to make sure he did not touch anything, because his hands were so clumsy."

His wife said Shinnar always had time for family because "no time of day was too late for them."

He encouraged his children and grandchildren to study, to pursue a good profession and, above all, to marry, she said.

"I think he probably had a good marriage the first time around and he was enjoying the second time around, too," she said. "I believe he figured it is a good place to be -- a good union with a good partner."

In addition to his wife of eight years, Shinnar is survived by a sister, Ruth Matar, who lives in Israel; sons Shlomo Shinnar of New Rochelle and Meir Shinnar of Teaneck, N.J.; six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. His first wife, Miryam, died in 2000.

Services were held on Aug. 21. His burial was in Israel.

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