Woodrow Harry Kratz, who devised a system for the automatic delivery of fuel oil and later operated an air-conditioning and cleaning-solvents business, died of respiratory failure Sept. 5 at Bonnie Blink Masonic Home in Cockeysville. He was 89, and a former Sparks resident.
Mr. Kratz was born and raised in West Baltimore and graduated from Polytechnic Institute in 1929.
While working as a route dispatcher for Standard Oil Co. in Baltimore in the early 1930s, Mr. Kratz came up with the idea of automatic fuel delivery.
"He devised the Esso Watch Dog Degree Day System using the 'K' factor [after Kratz] to project automatic delivery of heating oil," said his son, Alan R. Kratz of Eldersburg. The system -- which is still in use -- is based on a customer's pattern of oil consumption and the "degree days" calculated by subtracting 65 from a day's average temperature.
In 1939, Standard Oil discontinued kerosene deliveries, and Mr. Kratz took over the routes and subsequently added fuel oil. He later established Globe Solvents Co. of Maryland, which delivered industrial cleaning solvents to area businesses.
During World War II, he served in the Army's 45th Division, and in 1944, participated in the invasion of Anzio, Italy. He attained the rank of sergeant.
In the early 1950s, to keep his fuel oil company employees busy in the summer months, he established Woodrow H. Kratz Sales & Service, one of Baltimore's early Carrier air-conditioning dealers.
Mr. Kratz retired in 1999.
He was a past president of the Pikesville Lions Club and the Oil Heat Association of Maryland.
In 1939, Mr. Kratz married Eunice Graf, who died in 1975.
Services were held Monday.
In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 26 years, the former Doris Sturm of Sparks; and a grandson.