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John S. ButtonEngineer, inventorJohn S. Button, a...


John S. Button

Engineer, inventor

John S. Button, a retired mechanical engineer who worked for Riggs Distler & Co. nearly 50 years, died Wednesday of cancer. He was 85.

A draftsman and amateur inventor, Mr. Button patented an easy-to-use tire chain in the late 1940s, said his daughter, Annette B. Sanders. But just as a company became interested in producing his invention, snow tires came on the market, she said.

"He was always thinking -- always working and tinkering with something," said Ms. Sanders of Linthicum.

vTC Another of his concepts that was ahead of its time, she said, was his idea in the late 1950s for a commercial center on the Inner Harbor. The Baltimore News American profiled his innovative ideas, which, of course, predated the current Harbor place by about 30 years.

"At that time, it was just old piers and fish places," she said. "He had it completely worked out, with parking, a convention center, fountains and restaurants."

Born in LaPlata, Mr. Button was educated in the public schools of Port Tobacco and later in Richmond, Va.

He was a member of Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 100. He also was active at the Church of the Ascension in Arbutus and was a member of its Men's Club. He taught drafting classes for the union at Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical School in Baltimore.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at the Church of the Ascension, Poplar and Potomac avenues.

He is survived by his wife of 57 years, the former Regina K. Knowles; two more daughters, Phyllis R. Martin of Little Rock, Ark., and Elaine M. Smith of Arbutus; a brother, Charles E. Button of Baltimore; 10 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be sent to The St. Agnes Hospice Program, 900 Caton Ave., Baltimore 21229, or the Good Shepherd Center, 4100 Maple Ave., Halethorpe 21227.

Philip E. Parron, 48, a Baltimore native who relatives said never fully recovered from the stresses of two Army combat tours during the Vietnam War, killed himself July 21 in Richmond, Va., where he had moved a year ago.

"He never got over that," said his half-brother, Laurice E. Parron Jr. of Virginia Beach, Va., referring to the war. "It's like so many of them."

Graveside services will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday in Arlington National Cemetery.

In addition to his half-brother, he is survived by his wife, Linda T. Parron of Richmond.

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