A handout photo of Reno King. (Feb. 14, 2012)

A handout photo of Reno King. (Feb. 14, 2012) Credit: Handout

Reno C. King Jr. grew up in a simpler time amid humble beginnings in the South, and attained success in an exacting field -- writing authoritative texts in mechanical engineering.

The longtime resident of Douglas Manor, Queens, also taught and served as an administrator at area colleges.

King died Sunday from heart failure at St. Raphael's Hospital in New Haven, Conn., near his home in North Branford. He was 94.

According to his son-in-law, Newsday reporter Robert Kessler, King's first name was chosen in honor of the last name of a Union officer during the Civil War who showed consideration for Southern civilians. He was born in Richmond, Va., and grew up in Norfolk, Va., and Conway, N.C.

King served in the Merchant Marine before graduating from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in Manhattan in the early 1940s. He later earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.

He worked as an engineer designing and building dams that provided hydroelectric power in the United States and North Africa, family members said.

King's teaching career began at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy when it was in Manhattan in the 1940s. He taught at New York University's College of Engineering and Science in the 1950s and '60s. He became assistant dean of freshman affairs at NYU in 1966 and later became an associate dean at Queensborough Community College.

Family members said King was an authority on mechanical engineering and wrote books, including "Practical Marine Engineering" and the "Piping Handbook," the latter a standard in the field.

King embodied "a real kind of American dream success story," said a grandson, David Kessler of Manhattan.

King taught him about computers when Kessler was a boy in the 1980s, the grandson recalled. "I learned how to use a computer by a guy who grew up with an oil lamp in the kitchen," Kessler said.

He described his grandfather as "incredibly kind, incredibly generous and incredibly caring."

King was preceded in death by his wife, Marie. Survivors include his daughter, Margaret King of Douglas Manor; a son, Donald King, of Arvada, Colo.; five grandsons; and a great-granddaughter.

A private memorial service will be held March 2 at Community Church of Douglaston, Queens.

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