Philip "Jeffrey" Weiss, an engineer who helped grow his family's Holtsville-based industrial thermometer business, Weiss Instruments, into a national concern with customers as diverse as NASA and McDonald's, died Wednesday at Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport. He was 86 and died after an operation to repair a broken hip.
His death was announced by a daughter, Isabel Wacker of Brooklyn and Cutchogue.
The family business, founded by Weiss' grandfather, counted the Schlitz, Schaefer and Ballantine beer-brewing families as early customers. Its headquarters until 1977 was a converted carriage house on Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Avenue that housed machinery downstairs and family upstairs.
Weiss and his brothers, Albert and William, were thrust into company leadership as young men after their father suffered a heart attack in 1955. Albert assumed the company presidency. William headed sales. Philip, who'd attended the Polytechnic Institute, now New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering, designed and built products, which expanded over the years to include gauges and controls with military, food service and office applications.
"You always see the flaws in things; what doesn't work as well as you think it could work," said John Weiss, the company's current president and Philip's nephew, describing the engineer's ethos he said Philip lived by. "Some people might call that pessimistic. But you're looking to see what could be improved, rather than looking at everything and thinking everything is great."
One of the company's bestselling products remains a relatively simple glass industrial thermometer Philip Weiss worked on decades ago.
Weiss, a Baldwin resident since 1950, worked into his late 70s, stopping in 2007 because he no longer felt able to drive to work safely. The company has been located in Holtsville since 2000 and now employs 85 people.
Weiss was preceded in death by wives Lois and Kathleen. He is survived by another daughter, Meredith Weiss of Cutchogue; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Visiting is Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. at Coster-Heppner Funeral Home, 32470 Main Rd., Cutchogue. A service will be held Saturday at 4 p.m., followed by a private cremation.