John S. Baer, 85, a mechanical engineer who built two successful businesses designing and manufacturing precision instruments and products and held more than 50 patents for a number of inventions, died on Wednesday, June 6th, near his beloved home outside of Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. His family remembers him as a curious man with a brilliant technical mind; someone who was always interested in learning how things work and how to make them work better. That intellectual curiosity drove a lifetime of business and professional achievement. Born on August 31, 1926 he was the only child of Roy and Juanita Baer, a pharmacist and homemaker from Kansas City, Missouri. As a boy, he loved working with engines and anything mechanical. He even once disassembled the family’s grandfather clock “just to see how it worked.” At 17, Mr. Baer joined the Navy right out of high school and put his skills to use serving in the engine room of an LST that ferried tanks, equipment and troops during World War II. At war’s end, he returned home and attended Iowa State University where he majored in engineering and graduated in 1949. Along the way, he met and married Iowa State coed Sue (Helen) Vaughan in 1947. Shortly after graduating, Mr. Baer was recruited by RCA Corp., to join what many believed was the finest engineering department in the nation, led by David Sarnoff, the legendary radio and television pioneer who headed RCA for more than 50 years. At RCA, Mr. Baer worked for Arnold Spielberg, father of renowned film director Steven Spielberg. After five years at RCA, Mr. Baer decided to launch his own company, Precision Specialties, Inc. (PSI), which designed, modeled and manufactured specialty spring clutches and other products used in the automotive and vending industries. Headquartered in Pitman, New Jersey, Mr. Baer sold the company in 1970 and moved to Bar Harbor. In Bar Harbor, Mr. Baer built a following among commercial fisherman who often sought him out for specialty repairs to the propellers on their boats. Because he was both an engineer and a model maker Mr. Baer often built new propellers for the boats, and on more than one occasion the grateful fishermen paid him in lobsters and scallops. In the early 1980s, Mr. Baer invented and built a precision rain gauge that drew significant interest on the commercial market, and soon after he founded Rainwise, Inc., which designed and built precision weather instrumentation. In 2004, Mr. Baer sold Rainwise to its employees, who still run it today. Throughout his life Mr. Baer maintained a passion for auto racing and flying. As a commercial grade pilot he built two airplanes. He developed, built and raced his own cars, winning several design awards, while racing alongside Carroll Shelby and Paul Newman. His interests were many and he constantly “dabbled” in the design of numerous products, often employing his family as test subjects. Most recently he’d dedicated great time and effort literally “building a better mouse trap.”
Mr. Baer is survived by his loving wife Sue; a daughter Joan Feeley and her husband Don; a son Robert and his wife Shayne; and two grandsons, David and Michael. Services for Mr. Baer are private.
Arrangements by Jordan-Fernald, 1139 Main St. Mount Desert
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